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Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

Our vets in Long Island understand you may feel stressed about having your dog's blood tested. That's why we're answering common questions about the blood test process for dogs in this post.

Why is blood work important for dogs? 

Before a veterinarian or veterinary specialist can perform surgery, dogs will often need blood tests to determine whether they are healthy enough to undergo anesthesia so they can be sedated during the procedure.

Your primary vet can also conduct a blood test during a routine exam to establish a baseline for your pet's health and identify any potential health issues before they worsen. 

In the event that your four-legged companion is exhibiting symptoms of illness or disease, diagnostic blood tests play a critical role in helping your vet make an accurate diagnosis and provide the appropriate treatment. 

What do blood tests for dogs reveal?

A comprehensive blood analysis, including a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and Complete Blood Chemistry panel, electrolytes and urinalysis, is a fundamental element of veterinary healthcare. The CBC can reveal the presence of inflammation, infection or anemia, and offers insight into how a dog's immune system and blood clotting ability is functioning. 

The Chemistry panel and electrolytes tell us important information about your pet's internal organs, including the kidneys, liver, and pancreas, and whether they are working as efficiently as they should. 

This important lab work can help us discover complex issues within a dog's internal systems. For instance, blood tests can shed light on whether internal or external factors are influencing hormonal-chemical responses, potentially pointing to an issue in the endocrine system, and allowing your veterinarian to provide essential care. 

When does my dog need a blood test?

Your vet may recommend your dog have blood work done for many reasons. Here are a few circumstances where you may need to bring your pooch in for these diagnostic tests:

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

How long does blood work take at a vet?

The answer to this question will vary depending on many factors. Your vet or veterinary specialist can tell you how long your dog's blood tests will take and how quickly you can expect to receive results. Many tests can be completed in minutes, while some may take a little longer. 

How much are blood tests for dogs?

The cost of your dog's blood test will depend on:

  • The specific test required - Specialized tests may cost more than a routine blood panel. 
  • The frequency - The need to monitor your dog's condition or your dog's age may increase the frequency at which tests are needed. 
  • Your location - Where you live and where the test is performed and analyzed - in-house, emergency department or in a lab - can influence cost.

Potential Additional Costs

If your vet needs to conduct blood tests to diagnose or monitor your dog's health condition, you might need to pay for additional tests based on the results. These additional tests can include more X-rays, blood work, ultrasounds, and more. You may also need to prepare to pay for treatment, which may include prescriptions, surgery, therapy, and followup appointments. 

What do my dog's blood test results mean?

Your vet will take the time to explain your dog's blood tests and their results, since treatment and management of health conditions are a team effort between you and your veterinary team. 

Your dog's bloodwork will typically include a Complete Blood Count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC will be important for dogs with pale gums or that are experiencing weakness, fever, loss of appetite, or vomiting. Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea are also included here. 

What a Complete Blood Count Reveals

A CBC can detect bleeding disorders or other abnormalities that may not otherwise be identified. this test 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): This test reveals important information about blood clotting. High levels can indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant.

What Blood Chemistries Reveal (Blood Serum Test)

Blood serum tests, also known as blood chemistries, provide valuable information about a dog's overall health. By examining the levels of hormones, electrolytes, and markers of organ function, these tests give us a glimpse into the functioning of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and more.

They are particularly useful in evaluating the health of senior dogs, monitoring dogs on long-term medications, and conducting pre-anesthesia health assessments. Additionally, blood serum tests can be instrumental in diagnosing symptoms related to diseases such as Addison's, diabetes, kidney disease, and more, as well as symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and toxin exposure.

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.

Do you have questions about diagnostic tests or your dog's blood work needs? Contact us. We will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

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