Understanding Canine Blood Tests

 

Understanding dog blood tests is second nature to us. However, we understand that the same might not be said for you. This is why we always fully explain the results of canine blood tests with a patient's human caretakers. Arresting and treating whatever a blood test indicates takes an informed and concerted team effort. If we are ordering dog blood work, it will most likely be in the form of a Complete Blood Count, Blood Chemistry (serum) test, and/or a Urinalysis.veterinary care

The Complete Blood Count, or CBC, shows a veterinarian your dog's hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability and immune system response. A CBC is essential for a dog that has symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums or loss of appetite. If your dog needs surgery, a CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other unseen abnormalities. Specifically, a Complete Blood Count provides detailed information including:

  • Hematocrit (HCT): This test measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and hydration
  • Hemoglobin and mean corpulscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are the oxygen-carrying pigments of red blood cells
  • White blood cell count (WBC): This test measures the body's immune cells. Increases or decreases in the WBC indicate certain diseases, inflammatory response,  or infections
  • 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 may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions
  • Platelet count (PLT): This test measures cells that form blood clots
  • Reticulocytes (RETICS): These are are immature red blood cells. High levels indicate regenerative anemia
  • Fibrinogen (FIBR): This test provides important information about blood clotting. High levels may indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant

Blood Chemistries, or blood serum tests, evaluate a dog's organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels and more. These tests are important to evaluating the health of older dogs, dogs with signs of vomiting, diarrhea or toxin exposure, as well as dogs receiving long-term medications and general health before anesthesia.

  • Albumin (ALB): This is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage and intestinal, liver and kidney disease
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALKP): Elevations in this test may indicate liver damage, Cushing's disease or active bone growth in a young dog
  • Alanine aminotansferase (ALT): This test may determine active liver damage, but does not indicate the cause
  • Amylase (AMYL): Elevations in this test indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): Increases in this test may indicate liver, heart or skeletal muscle damage
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): This test determines kidney function. An increased level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver and heart disease as well as urethral obstruction, shock or dehydration
  • Calcium (Ca): Changes in the normal level of this test can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium
  • Cholesterol (CHOL): This test is used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing's disease and diabetes mellitus
  • Chloride (Cl): Chloride is an electrolyte that is typically lost with symptoms like vomiting or illnesses such as Addison's disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration
  • Coristol (CORT): Cortisol is a hormone that is measured in tests for Cushing's disease (the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison's disease (ACTH stimulation test)
  • Creatinine (CREA): This test reveals kidney function and helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN
  • Gamma Glutamy transferase (GGT): This is an enzyme that indicates liver disease or corticosteroid excess
  • Globulin (GLOB): This is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states
  • Glucose (GLU): Glucose is a blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures or coma
  • Potassium (K): This is an electrolyte typically lost with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison's disease, dehydration or urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest
  • Lipase (LIP): Lipase is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis
  • Sodium (Na): Sodium is an electrolyte often lost with signs of vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease and Addison's disease. This test helps indicate hydration status
  • Phosphorus (PHOS): Elevations in this test are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and bleeding disorders
  • Total bilirubin (TBIL): Elevations in this test may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia
  • Total protein: This test indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys and infectious diseases
  • Thyroxine (T4): Thyroxine is a thyroid hormone. Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs