Has my pet had any “labwork”?
Doctor Moody: “Ok Mrs. Goodclient, I think Fluffy needs to have labwork since she isn’t feeling well today.”
Mrs. Goodclient: “But Dr. Moody, Fluffy had labwork at her annual visit, why does she need it today?”
I find that many people are confused when I begin to recommend labwork for their pet, and I thought it would be a helpful blog topic. Labwork is a broad subject, as there are many types of tests that fit into this category. I will outline several of these tests and describe what these tests are used for.
Annual tests- Most often, this refers to an annual heartworm and fecal parasite test. These tests are performed to make sure an animals monthly heartworm prevention is working properly and you and your family are not at risk for any zoonotic parasites. Some veterinary offices will include other labwork such as chemistry panels or cbcs in their annual, but not commonly.
Chemistry Profiles- These are panels that vary in size from 5-35 tests. These panels check liver enzymes, kidney enzymes, pancreatitic enzymes, blood proteins, blood sugar, metabolic waste products, and electrolytes. These are the main way we, as veterinarians, determine how your pet is doing internally. The most important thing about these values, is many will be abnormal with NO clinical signs of symptoms of disease. These numbers will go up or down as early indicators that your animal is ill, and a lot of times if we catch this early enough we can intervene with medication or diet and help prevent serious illness.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)- This includes the red blood cell count and white blood cell count as well as platelets. If these are abnormal, there are other numbers that can help us determine why the count is abnormal. We use these numbers to diagnose anemia or infection.
Urinalysis- A urinalysis examines the urine for microscopic amounts of blood, bacteria, or infection among other things like glucose. Also, very early kidney disease can be detected by examining the urine for protein or by looking at the concentration of the urine. This measurement is called urine specific gravity.
Thyroid testing- Many veterinarians look at the thyroid as well as part of their recommended bloodwork. Cats commonly have hyperthyroidism as they age ( too high- similar to Graves disease in people) and dogs can have hypothyroidism as they age (too low). Thyroid disease can cause weight abnormalities, heart disease, neurological disease, and skin abnormalities.
Most veterinarians recommend some type of chemistry panel and cbc at the time of anesthesia. This provides a baseline for young, healthy animals, as well as detects anything that could be harmful with anesthesia. Also, animals over 7 years of age should have annual testing including a chemistry panel, cbc, thyroid test and urinalysis. This allows us to detect health problems early and to intervene if needed.
Animals on chronic medications such as for arthritis need to have their enzymes monitored to make sure it is safe to continue administering medication. Lastly, anytime an animal is ill, showing symptoms such as weight loss, inappetance, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in abdomen, or urinary issues one or several of these tests may be indicated.
These tests are invaluable for what we can learn from them, however most people are concerned with the cost. Depending on what tests are ran, they can range from 50$ for a single test to 200$ for a complete workup. When you consider adding years to your pets life with early detection, this is really not that much money to spend.
Wag more, Bark less,