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For the love of your pet: Yearly blood work helps find hidden diseases

June 19, 2014 at 1:19 a.m.


By Shana Bohac

About 10 percent of pets that appear healthy to their owners and veterinarians at annual checkups are found to have hidden disease. Uncovering hidden disease can help your pet live a longer and healthier life. It is recommended that adult pets have yearly blood work performed and geriatric patients get biannual work.

Just like us, pets' health progressively changes with age. Cats and small breed dogs are considered geriatric after 8 years old; large breed dogs are considered geriatric after 6 years old. Pre-anesthetic blood screening should be performed before sedation or general anesthesia.

Blood testing consists of two different tests: One is called a complete blood count, and the other is called a biochemical profile. Together, these tests evaluate your pet for infection, inflammation, anemia, clotting ability and organ function.

A typical complete blood count measures the level of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets circulating in your pet's body at that time. Changes in white blood cells can indicate infection or inflammation. Decreased red blood cells denotes anemia; increases can indicate dehydration.

Changes in platelet levels can alter your pet's clotting ability. A biochemical profile will measure a wide variety of values. Your pet's glucose level can be an indication of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia because of stress or diabetes mellitus.

Blood urea nitrogen and creatinine values give you an idea of how well the kidneys are functioning. The kidney filters both of these products, so elevated levels tell you the kidneys are not able to remove these products properly. Alkaline phosphatase and alanine aminotransferase are measured to evaluate liver function. Elevations in these values can indicate infection, inflammation or disease of the liver. Amylase and lipase are pancreatic enzymes that when elevated, tell you that your pet has pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas.

Other values that can be evaluated by your veterinarian include total protein, calcium, sodium, potassium, cholesterol, total bilirubin, albumin and globulin. Not all veterinary offices have in-house equipment, and each hospital has its own set of panels they typically run.

Health problems that may indicate your pet would benefit from blood evaluation include changes in activity level, decrease or increase in appetite or weight, diarrhea or vomiting, confusion or disorientation , changes in attitude, coughing or sneezing, changes in water consumption and changes in urination amount or frequency.

Having blood work before an elective procedure will give you peace of mind and reduce medical risk. You never know; healthy-looking pets may be hiding disease. Blood tests performed will be a part of your pet's medical record and provide a baseline for future reference in case your pet is ever sick.

Dr. Shana Bohac has a veterinary practice at Hill crest Animal Hospital in Victoria. She works on both small animals and equine patients. Submit questions to drshanabohac@hotmail.com.

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