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Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

We understand that it can be upsetting to take your pet for a blood test. To help ease your concerns, our Poway vets are here to help explain blood tests for dogs.

Why is blood work important for dogs?

When done as part of preventive care,  blood tests give us an indication of the earliest signs of illness before any outward symptoms appear so that your vet can detect, identify, diagnose and treat the illness. 

Detecting diseases early enables us to prevent and treat them sooner. During routine exams, healthy pets also need to undergo blood tests to establish normal baseline values for future comparison as they age.

Diagnostic blood tests are crucial in helping your vet determine the cause of your dog's symptoms if they are displaying any.

What do blood tests for dogs reveal?

Common tests include a complete blood count (CBC) and complete blood chemistry panel, which includes electrolytes and urinalysis. The CBC determines the presence of anemia, inflammation, or infection. It can also show how the immune system responds and how well blood clots.

Your vet can determine if your pet's liver, kidneys, and pancreas are functioning properly by analyzing the chemistry panel and electrolytes.

By performing this crucial laboratory work, we can also identify and address any complex issues within a dog's internal systems. Dogs' blood tests can determine if hormonal-chemical responses are triggered by internal or external stimuli. A veterinarian may interpret this as a sign of potential malfunction in the dog's endocrine system.

When does my dog need a blood test?

Countless circumstances can lead to your vet recommending that your dog have blood work done, such as:

  • Your pet's first vet visit (to establish baseline data and for pre-anesthetic testing before a spaying or neutering procedure)
  • Semi-annual routine exams as preventive care
  • During senior exams to look for age-related conditions in the earliest stages
  • As pre-surgical testing to identify your dog's risk of complications during surgery
  • Before starting a new medication
  • If your dog is showing odd behaviors
  • To help assess your pet's condition during an emergency visit

How long does blood work take at a vet?

Thanks to our in-house lab, our vets can perform a variety of tests and get results quickly. The tests themselves are relatively quick and can take minutes. Some tests may take somewhat longer. Your vet can provide an accurate timeframe.

How much are blood tests for dogs?

It's always best to contact your vet directly with these kinds of questions. They should be able to give you a more accurate estimate.

What do my dog's blood test results mean?

At Best Friends Veterinary Hospital, we are committed to providing clear explanations of your dog's blood tests and their results. We believe that the treatment and management of health issues require collaboration between our veterinary team and caring pet owners.

Typically, your dog's blood work will include a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC will be necessary for dogs who have pale gums or who are suffering from vomiting, fever, weakness, or loss of appetite. This category also includes blood tests for dogs who have diarrhea.

A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders 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 corpuscular 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.

What Blood Chemistries Reveal (Blood Serum Test):

Blood chemistries (blood serum tests) give us insight into a dog’s organ function (liver, kidneys, and pancreas), hormone levels, electrolyte status, and more.

The test can be used to assess the health of older dogs, do general health assessments before anesthesia, or monitor dogs receiving long-term medications.

These tests also help us evaluate the health of senior dogs and those with disease symptoms (such as Addison's, diabetes, kidney disease, or others), diarrhea, vomiting, or toxin exposure.

Does my dog need blood tests & lab work?

Even if your dog appears to be perfectly healthy, our vets at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital recommend blood tests and lab work as a preventative measure during an annual routine exam. This is due to the fact that the earlier we detect health issues, the more effectively we can treat your dog.

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.

Does your pet require advanced diagnostic care or treatment? Please contact our Poway veterinarians to book an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

Best Friends Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Poway companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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