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Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

We understand that it can be upsetting to take your pet for a blood test. To help ease your concerns, our San Diego vets are here to help explain blood tests for dogs.

Why is blood work important for dogs?

When done as part of preventive care,  blood tests give us an indication of the earliest signs of illness before any outward symptoms appear. So that your vet can detect, identify, diagnose and treat the illness. 

When diseases are detected early, prevention and treatment can begin sooner. Blood tests are also required for healthy pets during routine exams to obtain normal baseline values to compare later and as your pet ages.

If your dog is displaying symptoms, diagnostic blood tests play an essential role in helping your vet determine the cause of your dog's symptoms. 

What do blood tests for dogs reveal?

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 working as they should.

This vital laboratory work can also detect and aid in the identification of complex issues within a dog's internal systems. Blood tests for dogs, for example, can determine whether internal or external stimuli are causing hormonal-chemical responses. This indicates to a veterinarian that there may be an issue with the dog's endocrine system.

When does my dog need a blood test?

Countless circumstances can lead to your vet recommending that your dog have blood work done, such as:

  • 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 odd behaviors
  • To help assess your pet's condition during an emergency visit

How long does blood work take at a vet?

Thanks to our in-house lab, our vets can perform a variety of tests and get results quickly. The tests themselves are relatively quick and can take minutes. Some tests may take somewhat longer. Your vet can provide an accurate timeframe.

How much are blood tests for dogs?

This question is better posed directly to your veterinarian. They should be able to provide you with a more accurate estimate.

What do my dog's blood test results mean?

We will always take the time to explain your dog's blood tests and their results at San Diego Bay Animal Hospital, because treating and managing health issues is a collaborative effort between our veterinary team and loving pet owners.

Typically, your dog's bloodwork 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 hydration 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.

The test can be used to assess the health of older dogs, do general health assessments before 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.

Does my dog need blood tests & lab work?

Even if your dog appears to be in perfect health, our veterinarians at San Diego Bay Animal Hospital advise having blood tests and lab work done as a preventative measure during an annual routine exam. This is because we can treat your dog more successfully if we identify health issues early.

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 pet require advanced diagnostic care or treatment? Please contact our San Diego veterinarians to book an appointment

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San Diego Bay Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Diego companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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