Can I Buy a Vowel? Solving the Pet Blood Work Puzzle

Blood work is a powerful and informative diagnostic tool our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Mobile Services team relies on daily to diagnose illnesses, monitor therapies, and track patient progress. But what do all of those acronyms and numbers mean? How do the results inform your pet’s care? And why do we recommend these tests for healthy pets? We provide clear answers to help you understand your pet’s blood work basics.

Veterinary blood work—a test for all seasons

Your pet’s nose-to-tail physical assessment is their veterinary exam’s foundation—but this external observation does not show the full picture. To get a more in-depth look at your pet’s health status, your veterinarian performs blood work, which provides information regarding your furry pal’s internal health, including organ function, blood-cell count and health, and hydration status.

In addition to helping diagnose an illness, blood work can predict potential health events by highlighting trends, patterns, and changes that signal a healthy pet’s developing disease. Early disease detection enables veterinarians to take immediate action, provide treatment, and potentially eliminate—or at least minimize—future harm sometimes months or years before a pet begins showing signs. A Our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Mobile Services team recommends your pet have blood work completed in the following cases:

  • Preanesthetic or presurgical assessment
  • Unexplained illness
  • Annual wellness screening
  • Medication effectiveness assessment
  • Therapeutic monitoring

How your veterinarian reviews blood work

When you look at your pet’s blood work results, you see a jumble of acronyms, numbers, colors, and alarming capitalized words such as HIGH and LOW. However, to your veterinarian’s trained eye, these indicators provide a detailed picture of your pet’s present and future health. 

Veterinarians interpret blood work with a small- and big-picture perspective. Because the body’s systems are interrelated, each value is considered by itself and how the value measures up with all the other complementary values. Your veterinarian also considers these results in light of your pet’s current health status and past blood work, which is another key reason for ensuring your healthy pet routinely has blood work—because these results act as a reference point that can make diagnosis easier when your pet is ill. 

What you should know about your pet’s blood work

Fortunately, you do not need extensive knowledge of animal physiology and internal chemistry to understand your pet’s blood work results—and don’t worry, your veterinarian will always contact you to discuss your pet’s health status! By becoming familiar with the test panels and a few major values, you will be able to comprehend your veterinarian’s recommendations and make informed decisions regarding your pet’s health care. Standard blood work panel values include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC): The CBC analyzes the cellular portion of your pet’s blood, and is critical to the diagnosis of anemia, bleeding, infection, inflammation, dehydration, some cancers, and blood, immune, and bone marrow disorders. Major CBC values include:
    • Red blood cells (RBCs) — RBCs (i.e., erythrocytes) transport oxygen throughout the body.  
    • White blood cells (WBCs) — The five WBC types include neutrophils (NEUs), lymphocytes (LYMs), eosinophils (EOSs), monocytes (MONOs), and basophils (BASOs). 
    • Platelets (PLTs) — PLTs  (i.e., thrombocytes) are fibrous clumps that stop active bleeding in the blood vessels and throughout the body. Low platelet levels can indicate an active—or recent—bleed or reduced platelet production.
    • Packed cell volume (PCV) — PCV measures RBC concentration in your pet’s overall blood volume. A low PCV level can indicate blood loss, RBC destruction, or a production problem. A high PCV level can indicate dehydration.

  • Biochemistry profile: The biochemistry profile analyzes your pet’s blood serum—the liquid portion of the blood after the clotting factors and blood cells are removed. The blood serum’s various enzymes and compounds provide information about organ health and key compounds, including:
    • Kidneys — Your pet’s kidneys filter waste products from the blood, maintain pH and electrolyte balance, and produce a hormone that stimulates RBC production. Kidney values include blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine (CREA), and phosphorus (PHOS). Increases in these values can signal reduced kidney function. 
    • Liver — The liver aids metabolism, blood clotting, and toxin removal. Unlike other organs, the liver can regenerate. However, injury to this organ may appear on blood work as an increase in liver enzymes, including alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALKP), or a decrease in the albumin (ALB) protein.
    • Pancreas — The pancreas secretes powerful digestive enzymes and produces insulin to regulate blood glucose. Pancreatic inflammation or dysfunction can be detected by observing elevated lipase (LIPA) and amylase (AMYL) pancreatic enzymes levels, and high blood glucose levels.
    • Electrolytes — Electrolytes are electrically charged salts that help maintain internal homeostasis. Vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration, or kidney damage usually cause electrolyte imbalances. The body’s electrolytes include sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and chloride (Cl-).
    • Thyroid hormone (T4) — The thyroid gland acts as the body’s thermostat, regulating various processes, including metabolism and temperature. Thyroid dysfunction or a tumor may affect T4 levels. 
    • Glucose (GLU) — Blood sugar levels can be used to assess the pancreas or monitor diabetic insulin therapy.

Your veterinarian has had extensive training, and fully understands your pet’s blood work results, which they will share with you. Rest assured in the knowledge that—by having your pet’s blood work done routinely—you are making an invaluable contribution to your beloved companion’s lifelong health.

If your pet is due for their annual blood work—or they should have their first baseline test—schedule an appointment with our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Mobile Services team, so we can get to know your pet on a deeper level.

By |2024-02-15T00:00:20+00:00February 23rd, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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