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A Pet Parent's Guide to Blood Tests for Dogs

When should dogs have blood tests done? What do my dog's blood test results mean? Today, we look at why blood tests are important for dogs and what the results can tell your vet about your pup's health.

Why are blood tests for dogs important?

When done as part of preventive care,  blood tests can provide us with give us the information we need to spot early signs of developing illness, before symptoms may appear. They can help us to detect, identify, diagnose or even treat disease or illness. 

When we detect diseases early, treatment can be administered right away, before the disease becomes more severe and more difficult to treat. Healthy pets also need blood tests during routine exams to obtain normal baseline values that can be compared with results later in life.

Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and other symptoms play an essential role in helping your vet determine the cause of your dog's symptoms. 

What do dog blood tests examine?

A complete blood count (CBC) and complete blood chemistry panel, including electrolytes and urinalysis, are common tests. The CBC identifies whether there is anemia, inflammation or infection present. It can also indicate immune system response and blood clotting ability.

The chemistry panel and electrolytes tell your vet whether your pet’s liver, kidneys and pancreas are healthy and working as they should.

This important lab work can also detect and help to identify complex issues within a dog’s internal systems. For example, blood tests for dogs can detect whether internal or environmental stimuli are causing hormonal-chemical responses. This tells a veterinarian there may be a potential problem with the dog’s endocrine system.

Why does my dog need bloodwork done?

Countless circumstances can prompt your veterinarian to recommend bloodwork for your dog, including:

  • Your pet's first vet visit (to establish baseline data and for pre-anesthetic testing before a spaying or neutering procedure)
  • Semi-annual routine exams as preventive care
  • During senior exams to look for age-related conditions in the earliest stages
  • As pre-surgical testing to identify your dog's risk of complications during surgery
  • Before starting a new medication
  • If your dog is showing symptoms or acting abnormally or “off”
  • To help assess your pet's condition during an emergency visit

How long does blood work take at the vet?

While there are some specialty tests that may require the diagnostic capabilities of an external lab, our vets are able to perform many common blood tests for dogs quickly and accurately using the technology included in our in-house lab.

The tests themselves only take a few minutes and may save the life of your dog - not to mention future expenses for treatment or symptom management in the future. Some test results may take a little longer. Your vet can provide an accurate time frame so that you know when you can expect your dog's results to be ready.

We leverage advanced veterinary technology to ensure our patients will have the best possible treatment outcomes. Because blood tests at Dockery, Mobley & Associates Animal Hospital are done in-house, your vet will be able to explain why specific tests are needed and their results and address any questions you may have.

If the test results show abnormalities and more blood tests are required, there will be fewer trips back and forth, helping to save time.

How much are blood tests for dogs?

The cost of blood tests for your four-legged friend depends on a variety factors, such as the number of tests needed and their complexity. The team at our Albany animal hospital will be able to provide you with a cost estimate before the process begins.

What do the results of my dog's blood tests mean?

At Dockery, Mobley & Associates Animal Hospital, we believe that treatment and management of health issues are a team effort between our veterinary team and loving pet owners. As part of that collaboration, we always try to provide a thorough explanation of the blood tests we recommend and their pet's results.

Typically, your dog's blood work will include a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC will be important for dogs that have pale gums, or are experiencing vomiting, fever, weakness or loss of appetite. Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea also fall into this category.

A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other abnormalities that may not be identified otherwise.

A CBC reveals detailed information, including:

  • Hematocrit (HCT): With this test, we can identify the percentage of red blood cells to detect dehydration or anemia.
  • Hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are pigments of red blood cells that carry oxygen.
  • White blood cell count (WBC): With this test, we measure the body’s immune cells. Certain diseases or infections can cause WBC to increase or decrease.
  • 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 can indicate health conditions due to allergies or parasites.
  • Platelet count: (PLT): This test measures cells that form blood clots.
  • Reticulocytes (RETICS): High levels of immature red blood cells can point to regenerative anemia.
  • Fibrinogen (FIBR): We can glean important information about blood clotting from this test. High levels can indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant.

What Blood Chemistries Reveal (Blood Serum Test):

Blood chemistries (blood serum tests) give us insight into a dog’s organ function (liver, kidneys and pancreas), hormone levels, electrolyte status and more.

We can assess the health of older dogs, do general health assessments prior to surgery with anesthesia or monitor dogs receiving long-term medications.

These tests also help us evaluate senior dogs’ health and those with symptoms of diseases (such as Addison’s, diabetes, kidney diseases or others), diarrhea, vomiting or toxin exposure.

When should my dog have blood tests done?

At Dockery, Mobley & Associates Animal Hospital, our vets may recommend blood tests be conducted and lab work done as a proactive measure during an annual routine exam, even if your dog seems perfectly healthy. This is because the sooner we catch health issues, the more effectively we can treat them, preserve your dog’s health, save valuable time, and potentially treat or prevent painful symptoms.

Our veterinary team will always advocate for your pet’s health, explain any tests that are needed and why, and take a preventive approach to your dog’s veterinary care.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your dog need bloodwork? Contact our Albany vets today to learn more about our in-house diagnostics lab and the tests we run on-site.

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