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What are all those lab tests for?
The gradual onset of health problems in an apparently healthy pet often go unnoticed. There are many conditions, that if diagnosed early, can be completely reversed or controlled for extended periods of time. Regular dental care, vaccinations, control of parasites and a balanced diet are important for good health care. Laboratory testing for the early detection of changes in the health status of your pet is also important. Laboratory tests are an important means by which your veterinarian can diagnose blood disorders, kidney and liver disease, diabetes, infection, cancer, thyroid disease and other hormonal problems. The promotion of quality pet health care through a wellness program can add years of vitality and extend your pet's life. Some common laboratory tests are explained below.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
White blood cells: Neutrophils Monocytes Bands Eosinophils Lymphocytes Basophils: These numbers tell how many of each type of white blood cell are present and whether or not they appear normal. White blood cells help fight infection. It is important to know whether the count is low, normal or high. White blood cell numbers can increase in response to inflammation and infection. In leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood system, either the numbers of white blood cells are increased or their appearance is abnormal, or both. White blood cell numbers can decrease with severe infection or with bone marrow disorders.
Platelets: Platelets help with blood clotting. It is important to make sure that these numbers remain normal or close to normal.
Red Blood Cells (RBC): Packed Cell Volume (PCV) Hemoglobin MCV MCH MCHC RBC Morphology (shape):
Tests to evaluate red blood cells (size, shape, number). Tests for anemia (low red blood cell levels). These tests help indicate which type of anemia is present.
Serum chemistry tests:
Liver enzymes: ALT AST ALP GGT.. Thsese tests help indicate that there may be a problem with the liver. They may also be abnormal with inflammation of the pancreas.
Total Bilirubin: A test for jaundice. Increased levels usually indicate a liver disorder (with or without concurrent disease of the pancreas) or damaged red blood cells.
Total protein ,albumin, A/G ratio, globulin:
Protein levels. Albumin may be decreased with disorders of the intestine, kidneys, liver, or decreased nutrien intake. The globulin level may also decrease due to intestinal disease and may increase in response to inflammation.
Creatinine, phosphorus and BUN:
Tests of kidney function (should be run in conjunction with urinalysis for the most accurate assessment of kidney function).
Calcium: Elevated calcium levels can be a sign of a wide variety of disease. The most common cause is lymphosarcoma (a type of cancer).
Glucose: Blood sugar. Increased levels may indicate diabetes. In cats, elevations may occur in conjunction with stress. A subnormal level may occur with several disorders, including liver problems, severe infection, certain types of cancer, Addison's disease (a disorder of the adrenal glands), and malnutrition.
cPL (canine specific pancreatic lipase), fPL (feline specific pancreatic lipase), amylase and lipase:
Tests for inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
Sodium, potassium and sodium/potassium ratio:
There are important body electrolytes. It is especially important that potassium levels be monitored in sick animals and in animals with decreased kidney function or adrenal disease. CPK Muscle enzyme. Increased levles indicate muscle injury or inflammation.
T4: Thyroid test. In cats we look for levels above normal (hyperthyroidism) and in dogs we look for subnormal levels (hypothyroidism). This is a screening test. If the result is abnormal, more detailed thyroid testing may be necessary to determine the best course of treatment.
T4 by Equilibrium Dialysis: This is a confirmatory test for the presence of thyroid disease.
Urinalysis is a very important means of evaluating overall kidney function, especially when done in conjuction with blood tests. Urinalysis is also a key test for determining if there is a urinary tract infection or if there is inflammation in the urinary bladder. Urinalysis also helps to confirm, along with blood tests, whether or not an animal has diabetes (with diabetes, either sugar or both sugar and ketones are present in the urine). *Note: In cats over 8-10 years of age urinary tract infections, when present, are often "silent." This means that there frequently are no signs of any abnormality such as straining to urinate, urinating more frequently, or presence of blood in the urine:
Urine culture and sensitivity: Urine is placed on a microbiologic growth media and an attempt is made to grow any bacteria that are present. When bacteria are identified tests are done to identify the antibiotics that are safest and most effective to treat the infection.
UrineCortisol: Creatinine Ratio A screening test for Cushing's disease in dogs (abnormal adrenal gland function)
Fecal Tests Tests for parasites (Ova and parasites) Fecal tests are done to evaluate for presence of intestinal parasites (e.g., Giardia, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia). It is important to check periodically for parasites (once to twice a year depending on the animal's environment), even if stools are consistently normal, Parasites can be transmiitted from animals to humans). Tests for parasites are done routinely in animals with abnormal stools. Specific treatment is prescribed based on results.