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Blood and Urine Testing - What is that all about?

In Veterinary Medicine, one very valuable tool we have at our disposal in order to better understand the overall health status of our patients is the performance of labwork.  Whether it is a pre-anesthetic panel to be performed before a surgery, a comprehensive panel being run on a sick pet, or even a preventative maintenance screen on an older pet, these tests provide a wealth of information to complement your pet's physical exam.

Generally, in order to conduct the tests at the lab, first a small sample of your pet's blood and urine are collected and stored in special tubes prior to being sent to the lab (or sometimes run in-house).  Most of our pet's are amazingly tolerant of the blood-drawing event (oftentimes, they are better patients than we are!)  And when it comes time for the urine collection, at our hospital we prefer always to get an ultrasound-guided urine needle collection.  It's as easy as a pet getting a vaccine, and ensures that the urine is not contaminated from the pet's hair on its way out as what happens with a free-catch sample caught in a cup by an owner at home. 

The first part of the comprehensive blood panel in the CBC (complete blood count).  From the CBC, we get important information about the status of your pet's bone marrow / immune system's health.  Primarily, this is the part of the panel from which we gather information regarding your pet's RBC's (red blood cells), WBC's (white blood cells) and platelets.  Red blood cells are important for the body to be able to oxygenate all its tissues.  White blood cells are an important part of the immune system for fighting infection and protecting against disease.  Platelets are critically important for clotting. 

The second part of the comprehensive blood panel is the serum chemistry assessment.  This part of the panel gives a wealth of information regarding your pet's organ function status.  When we are concerned that your pet might have a problem, for example, with its liver, kidneys, GI tract or pancreas, we go looking first for clues on the reported chemistry panel.  Hormonal problems such as diabetes and thyroid problems are also uncovered by the information provided on this panel.  This is also the panel we look very closely at for safety information when it comes to monitoring patients on certain long term medications such as NSAID's for arthritis.

Lastly, the urinalysis is an important part of labwork profile that helps complete the picture regarding bladder health and kidney / endocrine function.  Furthermore, as previously mentioned, during the quick process of ultrasound-guided urine collection, other important pieces of information can be discovered such as looking for problems in the bladder such as crystals, stones or sometimes even bladder cancer.

 

“Kittens are angels with whiskers.”  - Unknown

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” -Roger Caras