The amount of information from a simple blood test is astounding – and is the key to monitoring your pets health.

Annual or semi-annual blood chemistry tests have a lot of value in keeping your pet healthy. The complete blood count test can reveal disease before signs emerge, making treatment more effective

In this age of high-tech veterinary tools like digital X-rays and color Doppler ultrasound, one simple blood test — a complete blood count, or CBC — remains at the forefront of diagnosis. A single drop of blood contains millions of cells, and with a scant half teaspoon, your pet’s veterinarian can quickly identify nearly two dozen types of cells to diagnose conditions ranging from anemia and autoimmune disease to cancers and infections.

Our pets can’t talk to us, so veterinarians need lab tests and other procedures to aid in diagnoses.

A CBC may seem a mysterious jumble of alphabet soup, but you can more easily understand it when you know a bit about the components of blood. Blood is a mixture of ingredients that the cardiovascular system — the heart, arteries, veins and capillaries — transports throughout your cat’s body. During its journey, blood carries oxygen and waste products, including carbon dioxide, which is exhaled via the lungs, and nitrogen, which is excreted by the kidneys.

 

Blood chemistry machines at Oromocto Veterinary Hospital can deliver results in minutes.

Blood chemistry machines at Oromocto Veterinary Hospital can deliver results in minutes.

Slightly more than half of blood is plasma, a pale yellow liquid consisting mostly of water. The remainder is made up of chemicals like enzymes, hormones and nutrients as well as red blood cells and platelets created in the marrow of larger bones, and white blood cells, some of which originate in the spleen or lymph nodes. Veterinarians recommend CBCs when a pet exhibits fatigue or weakness, has a suspected infection or a disease causing inflammation. In some cases, results may indicate the need for additional tests, such as a urinalysis or imaging.

CBC results are complex and inter-related. Don’t get stressed about one or two “off” results. Your cat’s veterinarian will explain if a potential health problem exists. Although results differ in kittens/puppies, adults and seniors, CBCs are important to check in healthy cats to establish a baseline for future reference. They’re particularly vital for seniors. Young pets and adults 8 to 12 years of age have a CBC annually; those 13 and over, semi-annually.

CBCs are also necessary when monitoring the progress of chronic conditions. The blood tests can also detect conditions that could be life-threatening for cats receiving anesthesia, alerting the surgeon to modify the anesthesia or the procedure. In all cases, it’s wise to follow the veterinarian’s recommendation about when to have a complete blood count: better to have a normal test than not do it and regret it later.