Making Sense Of Blood Tests
Why do pets need blood tests?
Our patients are not able to tell us if they feel unwell, if a fatty meal makes them nauseous or if it hurts when they sit down. While six monthly wellness checks are strongly recommended, a thorough physical exam is not enough to check how our pet's internal organs are functioning. Blood tests are therefore very important in assisting our veterinarians in diagnosing problems and illnesses in our pets.
Blood testing on pets is very similar if not the same to those performed on you and me when we visit our doctor or pathologist. With the use of our in-house laboratories and in some instances external laboratories we are able to provide very accurate and timely information about the health of our patients.
What do blood tests test?
Blood tests look at the function of the body's organs, the immune system and the activity or progress of a disease process. Some tests can be used to stimulate or suppress an organ to look into its function more specifically. Some newer tests have the ability to look at your pet's genetics for specific disease or infections.
The organs that are tested in the most common series of tests are the liver, kidneys and pancreas. In addition to this certain enzymes are tested which can indicate muscle damage and generalised inflammation. The red & white blood cells are also tested which can give an indication as to hydration status, anaemia, inflammation or infection and how the pet's immune system is reacting to them.
Why would my pet need a blood test?
Pets require blood tests for many reasons. They are used prior to anaesthetics to identify problems that could arise and to adjust medications used for a procedure. They are used to screen for underlying diseases that cannot be picked up by a physical examination or identify diseases common to a specific breed. They can be used for monitoring the effects of certain drug therapies. Click here for further pre-operative information.
How often should pets have a blood test?
Depending on the age and condition of your pet the frequency of blood tests can vary. It is recommended that blood tests be performed prior to anaesthetics especially if a problem is suspected. As pets do age much faster than humans (nearly 7 years for every one of ours), a yearly screen for any new developing conditions is highly recommended.
How are blood tests performed?
Blood tests are a simple procedure that can be carried out quickly, often during a consultation. Your veterinarian will most often clip a small amount of hair from your pets arm or neck and alcoholic swabs are used to clean the area. A small amount of blood is collected from one of these areas, placed into special tubes and processed either in the clinic or sent to a laboratory. A bandaid may be placed on the arm to stop bruising. Our pets do not seem to feel these needle sticks like we do and before you know it, it's all over. Occasionally it is required to remove the animal from the consultation room - this is to allow for less distraction to your pet, facilitating a less stressful blood test for all involved!