Bloodwork that we run here at Encina Veterinary Hospital falls into a few basic categories.
1) The CBC, or Complete Blood Count, measures the number, size, shape, and types of cells that are in the blood. The two main varieties of blood cells are the red blood cells and the white blood cells. The red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to all of the body’s tissues. Assessing the red blood cells can tell us about diseases which cause acute or chronic blood loss, dehydration, destruction of red blood cells, or a decrease in production of red blood cells. Assessing the white blood cells tells us about infection, inflammation, clotting, and some cancers.
The veterinarian may also make a blood smear to get a closer look at the shape of cells which can be affected by various diseases or to confirm abnormal findings picked up by the CBC machine. The findings of the CBC are not always specific and must be interpreted in light of other diagnostics but it is a great place to start in order to be able to rule out broad categories of disease.
2) The blood chemistry and electrolytes are another component of basic bloodwork. This tells us about kidney and liver function, metabolic diseases, some cancers, endocrine diseases, gastrointestinal function, toxicities, and more.
“That’s all fine,” you say, “but why does Sadie need her blood checked when she just broke a nail?” Whenever we prescribe certain medications, such as an anti-inflammatory and pain medication in case of a broken nail, we have to keep in mind potential side effects and risks to the patient. Anti-inflammatories used in pets, such as Rimadyl, are generally very safe but can have rare and serious side effects involving the kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. When we prescribe Rimadyl we want to be sure that your pet does not have a condition that makes him or her more susceptible to these side effects so that a broken nail does not turn into kidney failure!
“Ok, but Rover just had bloodwork done a month ago, why are we repeating it?” Great question! Blood cell counts and chemistry can change day to day. If Rover is coming in to us with clinical signs which did not exist at the last visit, he may have significant changes in his bloodwork which will help us to diagnose his new illness.
“But Fluffy has never been sick in her life, why does my wellness appointment include bloodwork?” Our pets can’t tell us how they feel and often put on their bravest face for us, concealing chronic illness.
Annual bloodwork for them is like bloodwork every 7 or so years for us.
Early detection of certain chronic diseases such as kidney disease can help us take measures to slow their progression such as changing the diet of the pet.
Remember, if you have a question about why the veterinarian wants to perform a certain blood test, just ask! We would be happy to explain the reasoning and the risks we would be taking by not performing the bloodwork.
Dr. Alina Kelman