- 3 months ago
Understanding pet blood tests
01 The magic of a pet blood test
Pet blood tests can give us a wealth of information about the health of your pet. They provide an insight into the health of many organs, help detect disease and can also confirm if your pet is safe to undergo anaesthesia.
From a pet blood test, we can work out if your pet is dehydrated, has underlying kidney disease or liver changes, and assess your pet's red and white blood cells. All of this helps improve the level of care we can provide to your pet.
So, what actually happens when we take blood from your pet?
Most blood samples are taken from the jugular vein in the neck. This vein is large enough to provide a good sample and allows us to collect the blood as quickly as possible. This is important as blood will start to clot if it is not collected swiftly and this can affect the results.
Most pets are also more relaxed when blood is taken from their jugular vein and there is minimal, if any discomfort. If necessary, a smaller sample can be obtained from a vein in the leg but these veins are preferably 'saved' for administering injections or IV fluids.
Once the blood has been collected we place pressure over the vein to prevent any bruising. Your pet should not require a bandaid but a liver treat (instead of a lollipop) is a must!
The blood from your pet is placed into tubes appropriate for required tests. Some tests can be run on machines we have in house but there are certain tests that require more extensive equipment and so the pet blood sample is sent to an external laboratory.
Pet blood tests are an essential part of good veterinary medicine and can be critical when diagnosing and managing diseases. You should always ask us if you have any questions or are worried about the health of your pet.
02 The power of a wee sample
It's not only blood tests that give us an insight into the health of your pet. Testing your pet's urine is another essential part of good veterinary medicine.
Did you know that a small amount of urine can give us information about your pet's internal health, and rule out problems such as kidney disease and diabetes?
As part of a routine urine test, we usually test how concentrated your pets urine is. This gives us an idea of how well your pet's kidneys are working. We may also test for the presence of blood, look at pH, protein levels and glucose and even spin the urine down to form a sediment to look for bacteria and crystals. Sometimes it is necessary to send your pet's urine to an external laboratory for testing (such as for deciding what antibiotics are appropriate if a bacterial infection is present.)
Collecting urine at home can be a bit overwhelming and we will be able to advise you on the most suitable technique for your pet. If you don't succeed at home we routinely collect urine from pets using a very small needle (a painless and quick procedure.) This routine procedure is called a cystocentesis and is necessary if we need to collect urine without contamination.
If you think your pet's urination habits have changed it is best to phone your vet for advice.
03 Unhappy hormones
An endocrine disease is caused by an upset in the normal balance or regulation of hormones. These 'unhappy hormones' lead to a range of diseases that can greatly affect your pet's quality of life.
When too much hormone is produced, the disease is referred to as a 'hyper-disease'. Tumours and abnormal tissue growth commonly cause an overproduction of hormone.
A 'hypo-disease' occurs when too little hormone is produced. Endocrine glands that are destroyed, removed, or just stop working cause these diseases.
Keep an eye out for changes in:
- Appetite and thirst
- Coat and skin
Some endocrine diseases such as Diabetes and Addison's disease (low levels of the adrenal hormones) can reach a crisis point and be potentially life threatening if not treated.
There are multiple ways we can treat an endocrine disease but diagnosis of the actual cause of the disease is essential.
Pet blood and urine tests are critical in the diagnosis and if your vet is suspicious of an endocrine disease, they will discuss the most appropriate tests for your pet.
04 Jackson is thirsty
Jackson the cat came in for a check up. He had been drinking copious amounts of water over the past month and even though he usually had an excellent appetite, he was looking 'a bit skinny.'
Examination revealed that Jackson was dehydrated and had lost nearly 20% of his body weight in just three months! A blood test indicated he had high blood sugar levels (glucose) and a urine test confirmed the presence of glucose in his urine. A diagnosis of diabetes was made.
The urine test also confirmed the presence of ketones, signalling that Jackson was in 'ketosis', a potentially life threatening condition that can occur when the body can no longer cope with the disease.
Diabetes is an 'endocrine' disease where the body fails to produce enough insulin to help move sugar from the blood stream in to the cells for energy. It is similar to type 1 diabetes in people as patients generally require the administration of insulin once or twice daily.
The four main signs to watch out for:
- Increased appetite, but with...
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
Jackson was admitted to hospital for intensive care. He was placed on an intravenous drip and insulin therapy in the form of injections was commenced. Thankfully he responded quickly and started to improve overnight.
Management of diabetes is life-long and involves regular blood tests and monitoring. Some cats can go in to remission if diet and weight are managed correctly. Dogs usually require insulin treatment for life. Some patients do not respond as we would expect so further investigation in to other diseases sometimes needs to be considered.
If you notice any changes to your pet’s daily habits such as a change in appetite or thirst, it’s a good idea to arrange a check up with your vet as soon as possible. There are many endocrine diseases that can present with similar signs.
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