Laboratory Testing 

   Laboratory results are necessary for veterinarians to assess your pet’s health.  Even subtle changes in the test results may signal an underlying disease.  AAHA recommends pets at middle age undergo     lab testing at least once a year.  Once they reach senior years, these tests are recommended every six months.  Sometimes even more often, depending on the results.  Some of the tests that maybe recommended are:



CBC (complete blood count): this measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and    platelets.  The number and type of cells give the veterinarians the information needed to help diagnose anemia, infection, etc.


Blood Chemistry profiles: This measures electrolytes, enzymes, and chemical elements.  This information helps diagnose kidney, liver, and pancreas functions.  The results help formulate accurate diagnosis, monitor responses to treatment and prescribe proper therapy. 


Urinalysis: Analysis of urine can detect the presence of substances that do not normally appear, like sugar, and blood cells.  A measurement of concentration is also helpful in diagnosing diseases.

 Other tests and assessments maybe recommended, depending on your pet’s specific condition.  Theses may include: heartworm test, virus testing, radiographs, blood pressure, EKG, and thyroid levels.


Pre-surgical Blood work:

Why is it important to my pet?

   There are always many questions a pet owner often has in regards to pre-surgical blood work for their pet.  “Is it really necessary? My pet is “young and healthy” how could anything be wrong? This is just a routine surgery so I don’t think it needs to be done.”  Hopefully after reading just a little further, you will see why the question of pre-surgical blood work cannot be taken lightly. 

   Pets often mask symptoms of illness and disease so we cannot detect them.  Not to mention that they cannot describe symptoms to allow us to know something may be wrong.  Because of this, pre-surgical blood work is recommended for pets of all ages.   

   When pre-surgical blood is taken, your veterinarian is looking for many different things.  Presence of infection, anemia, among many other diseases.

   Liver and kidney function are the two most important areas that your veterinarian is evaluating when putting your pet under anesthesia.  These values are especially vital as the liver and kidneys processes and then discards the medications used during anesthetic procedures from the body.  If these organs are compromised your veterinarian may recommend post-poning surgery or may just change the protocol used in order to make the anesthetic procedure as safe as possible for your pet. 

   While pre-surgical blood work acts as a catalyst to evaluate overall health for a specific procedure, it also helps in establishing a baseline value of what is “normal” for your pet.  This is greatly important in evaluating the future health of your pet in that once a normal range is established, even very tiny changes become meaningful to your pet’s health status.

  We, as caring pet owners, often forget that our pets age more rapidly than we do, so changes can often occur before we are ready.  Without pre-surgical blood work pet’s are at a higher risk for complications during surgery.  Having said that, even favorable blood work is not always 100% guarantee with anesthesia as no anesthetic procedure should ever be viewed as routine. 

   It is always important when weighing your decision whether to go forward with pre-surgical bloodwork to remember that illness and disease are not biased when it comes to age.  Any of our pets can have small changes that increase their risk while being under anesthesia and simple testing prior to the procedure will give your veterinary team the best tools in order to make sure that your furry family member comes home safe and sound.





Understanding Your Pet’s Blood Work

Blood tests help veterinarians determine causes of illness accurately, safely, and quickly and let us monitor the progress of your pet’s medical treatments. To help you understand your pet’s test results, this guide explains common tests. A checkmark in any box indicates a significant abnormal finding on your pet’s blood work. If you have questions, ask any staff member. We want you to understand our recommendations and be a partner in your pet’s care.



This is the most common blood test performed on pets and people. A CBC gives information on hydration status, anemia, infection, the blood’s clotting ability, and the ability of the immune system to respond. This test is essential for pets with fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums, or loss of appetite. If your pet needs surgery, a CBC can potentially help detect some bleeding disorders or other unseen abnormalities.


HCT (hematocrit) measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and hydration.

Hb and MCHC (hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration) help determine the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.

WBC (white blood cell) count measure the body’s immune cells. Increases or decreases may indicate certain diseases or infections.

GRANS and L/M (granulocytes and lymphocytes/ monocytes) are specific types of WBCs.

EOS (eosinophils) are a specific type of WBC that may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions.

PLT (platelet) count measures cells that form blood clots.

RETICS (reticulocytes) are immature red blood cells. High levels indicate regenerative anemia.

FIBR (fibrinogen) is an important clotting factor and increased levels are often associated with inflammation. High levels also may indicate that a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant.



These common blood serum tests evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, and more. They are important in evaluating older pets, pets with vomiting and diarrhea or toxin exposure, pets receiving long-term medications, and the pet’s health before anesthesia.


ALB (albumin) is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage, and intestinal, liver, and kidney disease.

ALKP (alkaline phosphatase) elevations may indicate liver damage, Cushing’s disease, and, in young animals, active bone growth. Elevations in SAP (serum alkaline phosphatase) in cats are generally more significant than those seen in dogs.

ALT (alanine aminotransferase) is a sensitive indicator of active liver damage but doesn’t identify the cause.

AMYL (amylase) elevations may indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.

AST (aspartate aminotransferase) increases may indicate liver, heart, or skeletal muscle damage.

BUN (blood urea nitrogen) indicates kidney function. An increased BUN level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver, and heart disease, urethral obstruction, shock, and dehydration.

Ca (calcium) deviations can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium.

CHOL (cholesterol) is used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes mellitus.

Cl (chloride) is an electrolyte that is often lost with vomiting and Addison’s disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration.

CREA (creatinine) reveals kidney function. This test helps distinguish between kidney and nonkidney causes of elevated BUN.

GGT (gamma-glutamyl transferase) is an enzyme that indicates liver disease or corticosteroid excess.

GLOB (globulin) is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states.

GLU (glucose) is a measurement of blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizure, or coma.

K (potassium) is an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration, and urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest.

LIP (lipase), an enzyme, may indicate pancreatitis if levels are elevated.

Na (sodium) is an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney and Addison’s disease. This test helps indicate hydration status.

PHOS (phosphorus) elevations are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and bleeding disorders.

TBIL (total bilirubin) elevations may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia.

TP (total protein) indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys, and infectious diseases.

T4 (thyroxine) is a thyroid hormone. Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs, while high levels indicate hyperthyroidism in cats.

Source: Understanding Your Pet’s Blood Work, a pet-owner brochure published by IDEXX Laboratories’ Pet Health Network.