When Will A Veterinarian Order Blood Tests For Cats?

Cat Lab TestingSometimes in the case of an eye or ear infection, your feline friend's medical condition affords a veterinarian the opportunity for a relatively straightforward diagnosis. However, other times there is a need for further examination. In such cases, your veterinarian may order feline blood tests to aid in his or her investigation. The following situations can result in the need for blood tests for cats:

  • On the first veterinary visit: This is recommended to establish healthy baseline tests and also to check for any congenital abnormalities or potential concerns.
  • During semi-annual wellness exams: Your veterinarian may recommended blood tests as part of a thorough physical examination because cat blood work, along with other bodily fluids like urine, can help identify conditions the examination portion of a physical cannot.
  • If your cat seems sick: Cat blood tests are indicated for cats who are not displaying any overt signs of illness, disease, or injury but are acting abnormally.
  • Pre-surgical tests: Cat blood work is used to determine the general health of the liver and kidneys, which helps a veterinarian select the safest form of anesthesia. Blood work can also help determine the surgical risk level in infirmed, elderly, or injured cats.
  • During senior wellness exams: Cat blood tests are usually recommended for mature, senior, and geriatric cats as part of their periodic wellness exams. These are extremely beneficial, and we often see senior cats return to a more youthful state of being when blood tests identify an issue that can be easily treated.

At Countryside Veterinary Clinic, blood tests for cats are processed and analyzed on premises in our in-house laboratory. Having an on-site laboratory allows us to quickly and reliably determine and diagnose a health issue and then implement a successful medical intervention based on the results.

Types of Feline Blood Work

  • Feline Leukemia-Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: This is a common test for kittens and cats, especially those coming from unknown origins. These viruses are interspecies contagious and life threatening, so we recommend feline blood work if you adopt, find, or take in a new kitten or cat.
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): We analyze cat blood work to assess features of the blood, including red and white cell count, immunity status, and the measure of hemoglobin, which is the actual substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen. We also examine hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability, and immune system response. A CBC is essential for cats that have symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums, or loss of appetite. A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other unseen abnormalities as part of a pre-surgery risk assessment.
  • Blood Serum Chemistry: We analyze cat blood work to evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels, and more. These tests are important for evaluating the health of older cats, cats with signs of vomiting, diarrhea or toxin exposure, cats receiving long-term medications, and general health before anesthesia.
  • Total Thyroid Level: We analyze cat blood work for hyperthyroidism as well as for the reverse condition known as hypothyroidism.

Additional Types Of Lab Tests 

  • Urinalysis
  • Stool samples
  • Cytology

Understanding Your Cat's Blood Work

After we process and analyze a cat blood work sample, the next step is to help you fully understand any abnormal results. Your cat's blood work allows our veterinarians to evaluate the following:

  • Albumin (ALB): This is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage, and intestinal, liver, and kidney disease. 
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALKP): Elevations in this test may indicate liver damage, Cushing’s disease, or active bone growth in a young cat. This test is especially significant in cats.
  • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT): This test may determine active liver damage, but it does not indicate the cause. 
  • Amylase (AMYL): Elevations in this test indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): Increases in this test may indicate liver, heart, or skeletal muscle damage.
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): This test determines kidney function. An increased level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver, and heart disease as well as urethral obstruction, shock, or dehydration.
  • Calcium (Ca): Changes in the normal level of this test can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium.
  • Cholesterol (CHOL): This test is used to supplement a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, or diabetes mellitus.
  • Chloride (Cl): Chloride is an electrolyte that when lost typically leads to symptoms like vomiting or illnesses such as Addison’s disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration.
  • Cortisol (CORT): Cortisol is a hormone that is measured in tests for Cushing’s disease (the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison’s disease (ACTH stimulation test).
  • Creatinine (CREA): This test reveals kidney function and helps distinguish between kidney-related and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN.
  • Gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT): This is an enzyme that indicates liver disease or corticosteroid excess.
  • Globulin (GLOB): This is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states.
  • Glucose (GLU): Glucose is blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures or coma.
  • Potassium (K): This is an electrolyte. Low levels typically lead to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration, or urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest. 
  • Lipase (LIP): Lipase is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis.
  • Sodium (Na): Sodium is an electrolyte. Low levels may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease, and Addison’s disease. This test helps indicate hydration status.
  • Phosphorus (PHOS): Elevations in this test are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and bleeding disorders.
  • Total bilirubin (TBIL): Elevations in this test may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia.
  • Total protein: This test indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys, and infectious diseases.
  • Thyroxine (T4): Thyroxine is a thyroid hormone. High levels indicate hyperthyroidism in cats.

The Role Of Cat Blood Work In Disease Diagnosis

Cat blood work is an essential component in the diagnosis of disease. Just like any diagnostic tool, blood tests for cats are more effective when used as part of a diagnostic plan, which may include other tests. For example, elevated BUN and creatinine levels can indicate a kidney problem. However, they can also indicate mild dehydration in the period leading up to the blood work. This is why additional testing is necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

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