Why is blood work important for dogs?
As in tune as we might feel with our dogs, our canine friends can’t tell us how they’re feeling, though you might be able to tell something is wrong by the way they look or act.
Blood testing is essential for dogs and cats as it gives us an indication of the earliest signs of illness before any outward symptoms appear. They can help to detect, identify, diagnose or even treat disease or illness.
When we detect diseases early, prevention and treatment can be administered earlier. Healthy pets also need blood tests during routine exams to obtain normal baseline values to compare to later, and as your pet ages. A complete blood count (CBC) and complete blood chemistry panel, including electrolytes and urinalysis, are common tests.
The CBC identifies whether there is anemia, inflammation or infection present. It can also indicate immune system response and blood clotting ability. The chemistry panel and electrolytes tell your vet whether your pet’s liver, kidneys and pancreas are healthy and working as they should.
This important lab work can also detect and help to identify complex issues within a dog’s internal systems. For example, blood tests for dogs can detect whether internal or environmental stimuli are causing horomonal-chemical responses. This tells a veterinarian there may be a potential problem with the dog’s endocrine system.
When will my dog need a blood test?
Numerous circumstances might require a vet to order blood work for your dog, including the following:
- During a first vet visit (to establish baseline data and for pre-anesthetic testing before a spaying or neutering procedure
- During semi-annual routine exams
- During senior exams
- Pre-surgical testing to identify risk of complications during surgery
- Before starting a new medication
- If your dog is acting abnormally or “off”
How long does blood work take at a vet?
Our vets have access to our in-house veterinary laboratory, which allows us to perform a variety of tests and get results quickly. The tests themselves only take a few minutes, and may save the life of your dog - not to mention future expenses for treatment or symptom management in the future. Some tests may take somewhat longer. Your vet can provide an accurate timeframe.
We leverage advanced veterinary technology to ensure our patients will have the best possible treatment outcomes. Because blood tests at Westport Veterinary Associates are done in-house, your vet will be able to explain why specific tests are needed and their results, and address any questions you may have.
If the test results show abnormalities and more blood tests are required, there will be fewer trips back and forth and time can be saved.
How much are blood tests for dogs?
The cost of blood tests for your canine friend will vary depending on a number of factors, such as the quantity of tests needed and their complexity. Depending on your pet’s circumstances, the team at our clinic will be able to provide a cost estimate.
Understanding Your Pet’s Test Results
At Westport Veterinary Associates, we will always fully explain your dog’s blood tests and their results, as treatment and management of health issues are a team effort between our veterinary team and loving pet owners.
Your dog’s blood work will mostl likely be a complete blood count (CBC) or a blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC will be important for dogs that have pale gums, vomiting, fever, weakness loss of appetite. Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea also fall into this category. A CBC can also detect bleeding disorrders or other abnormalities that may not be identified otherwise.
A CBC reveals detailed information, including:
- Hematocrit (HCT): With this test, we can identify the percentage of red blood cells to detect hydration or anemia.
- Hemoglobin and mean corpulscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are pigments of red blood cells that carry oxygen.
- White blood cell count (WBC): With this test, we measure the body’s immune cells. Certain diseases or infections can cause WBC to increase or decrease.
- Granulocytes and lymphocytes/monocytes (GRANS and L/M): These are specific types of white blood cells.
- Eosinophils (EOS): These are a specific type of white blood cells that can indicate health conditions due to allergies or parasites.
- Platelet count: (PLT): This test measures cells that form blood clots.
- Reticulocytes (RETICS): High levels of immature red blood cells can point to regenerative anemia.
- Fibrinogen (FIBR): We can glean important information about blood clotting from this test. High levels can indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant.
Blood chemistries (blood serum tests) give us insight into a dog’s organ function (liver, kidneys and pancreas), hormone levels, electrolyte status and more.
We can assess the health of older dogs, do general health assessments prior to anesthesia or monitor dogs receiving long-term medications. The tests also help us evaluate senior dogs’ health and those with symptoms of diseases (such as Addison’s, diabetes, kidney diseases or others), diarrhea, vomiting or toxin exposure.
Does my dog need blood tests and lab work?
Our vets recommend blood tests be conducted and lab work done as a proactive, preventive measure during an annual routine exam, even if your pet seems perfectly healthy. This is because the sooner we catch health issues, the more effectively we can treat them, preserve your dog’s health, save valuable time, and potentially treat or prevent painful symptoms.
Our veterinary team will always advocate for your pet’s health, explain any tests that are needed and why, and take a preventive approach to your dog’s veterinary care.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.