Understanding blood test results

A blood test can prove to be a very valuable tool in a vet’s diagnostic arsenal, it can be used to confirm a vet’s suspicion, measure drugs in the system, and detect anomalies. Blood is made up of cells and fluid, and these are measured separately to indicate many different disease processes. Below is a brief overview of what blood results actually mean.

COMPLETE BLOOD COUNT (CBC)

This is a very common blood test in pets. It counts the cells in the blood, including red, white and platelet cells.

  • Red Cell Count measures the total number of red blood cells per volume of blood. It is used in detecting anaemia and other disorders of red blood cells.
  • Haemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying pigment of red blood cells. It is closely associated with the Red Blood Cell count.
  • White Cell Count (white blood cell count) measures the body’s immune cells. Increases or decreases may indicate certain diseases, infections or inflammation.
  • Neutrophils, lymphocytes andmonocytes are specific types of white blood cells. Disturbances of these may indicate infection, stress, cancer, hormonal imbalances and other conditions.
  • Eosinophils are a specific type of white blood cell that may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions.
  • Platelets count measures cells that help to form blood clots.

BLOOD CHEMISTRIES

These common blood serum tests evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels and more. They are important in evaluating older pets, pets with vomiting, diarrhoea or toxin exposure, pets receiving long-term medications and health before anaesthesia.

Preanaesthetic Blood Evaluation

This is a basic blood test, which will give an indication of how well the abdominal organs are faring. Further tests can be added to this evaluation, however these are selected by our veterinary on a case by case basis to investigate a condition further.

  • BUN (blood urea nitrogen) indicates kidney function. An increased level in the blood is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver, heart disease, urethral obstruction, shock and dehydration.
  • CREA (creatinine) reveals kidney function. This test helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN
  • GLU (glucose) is a blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus Low levels can cause collapse, seizures or coma.
  • TP (total protein) indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys and infectious diseases.
  • ALKP (alkaline phosphatase) elevations may indicate liver damage, Cushing’s disease or active bone growth in young pets. This test is especially significant in cats.
  • ALT (alanine aminotransferase) is a sensitive indicator of active liver damage but doesn’t indicate the cause.
Further blood tests
  • Ca (calcium) deviations can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumours, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium.
  • PHOS (phosphorus) elevations are often associated with kidney disease, hyperparathyroidism and bleeding disorders.
  • AMYL (amylase) elevation may indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.
  • LIP (lipase) is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis.
  • ALB (albumin) is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, haemorrhage, intestinal, liver, and kidney disease.
  • GLOB (globulin) is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states, including some cancers.
  • TBIL (total bilirubin) elevations may indicate liver or haemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anaemia.
  • CHOL (cholesterol) is used to aid in the diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease and diabetes mellitus.
  • Cortisol is a hormone that is measured in tests for Cushing’s disease (the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison’s disease (ACTH stimulation test)
  • T4 (thyroxine) is a thyroid hormone. Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs, while high levels may indicate hyperthyroidism in cats.

Electrolytes

  • Na (sodium) is an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhoea, kidney disease and Addison’s disease. This test helps indicate hydration status.
  • (potassium) is an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhoea or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration or urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to a heart arrhythmia.
  • Cl (chloride) is an electrolyte often lost with vomiting and Addison’s disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration.