Written by Dr Jesse S-Wardle (BVSc (Hons))
At Windaroo Animal Hospital, our patient’s health and well-being is of paramount importance. Our patients are unable to tell us if they are unwell, and illness can be masked even if they appear happy and healthy.
Every patient we see receives a thorough physical examination to assess their health but this unfortunately does not provide us with information about how their internal organs are functioning. A routine blood test provides your veterinary health care team with a window into what your pets internal organs are doing.
What happens with a blood test?
Blood collection in animals is similar to what happens with people. The vet and nurse will clip a small patch of hair to allow sterile preparation of the collection site. A small amount of blood is drawn from either your pet’s jugular (neck) vein or cephalic (leg) vein and placed into a number of tubes. At WVS we are lucky enough to have an in house blood machine, which means we are able to run most blood tests while you wait!
What information does a blood test tell us?
Our routine blood test is called a “general health profile.” This can be used in sick patients to determine illness, or in well patients to screen for underlying or developing disease. Two components are assessed: a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry.
The CBC supplies us with information related to your pet’s red and white blood cells and platelets. This helps us assess hydration status, clotting ability and whether there is inflammation or infection present.
The biochemistry component assesses your pet’s liver, pancreas, thyroid and kidney function, as well as their electrolytes and blood glucose levels.
For example kidney results indicate whether your pet is properly hydrated. Results may also reveal whether they have indicators for kidney disease, Addison’s disease and some gastrointestinal diseases.
Liver results may indicate if your pet has conditions such as diabetes, hypoglycaemia, Cushing’s disease, and some metabolic diseases. Results can also reveal if there are any abnormalities resulting from long term use of some medications.
We are also able to perform a number of specialised blood tests to assist us with managing your pet’s health. Some of these tests may need to be sent to the pathology lab. These can include: heartworm test; FIV and FeLV test (for cats), SDMA (marker for early kidney disease), cPLI (for pancreatitis), ACTH stimulation test (for Cushing’s disease), CK (for muscle disease and snake envenomation), and hormone tests (e.g. for pregnancy diagnosis).
How often are blood tests needed?
This really depends on whether your pet is unwell, has an ongoing condition and their age. It is recommended that our geriatric patients (>5 years of age for large breed dogs, >7 years for small breed dogs and cats) have an annual screening blood test to allow us to pick up on any changes or developing conditions.
This is recommended as our pet’s age much faster than we do, at approximately nearly 7 years for every 1 year of ours! Frequent testing can help catch potential health problems in the early stages, before they become more difficult to manage or even life-threatening.
Blood testing for surgical patients:
At WVS we recommend performing a “pre-anaesthetic” blood test prior to your pet undergoing a surgical procedure. The pre-anaesthetic blood test is done on the same day as the procedure.
We offer this test in conjunction with a procedure at a reduced price to encourage owners to invest in their pet’s health. A pre-anaesthetic blood test costs $99 and provides us with invaluable information. It allows us to assess how your pet’s internal organs are functioning and tailor an anaesthetic plan to suit your pet’s requirement to ensure both the anaesthesia and procedure is as safe as possible.
If, for example, the blood test identifies that your pet is slightly dehydrated prior to surgery, we will place them on intravenous fluids for a longer period of time prior to the procedure. Another example is if your pets kidneys aren’t working as well as they should, we may have to delay non-emergency procedures until we can address the underlying problems.
If the blood test comes back completely normal, it provides us with a baseline of parameters for us to compare to if a problem arises at a later date.
Any questions? Give us a call on (07) 3807 3699 or speak to your veterinarian at your next appointment.