Pet Health Part 2: Blood Work

Written By: Taylor Cox, Veterinary Assistant
Edited By: Caitlin Amiot, DVM

Blood work is often overlooked as an important part of healthcare. It is easy to forget how quickly our pets change with age; days can seem like minutes when we are with them. Even though our pets can maintain a youthful attitude, their bodies can go through drastic changes we might not even notice. Our pets can be very good at hiding little inconsistencies and small changes that can have a large impact on their overall health and well-being. For these reasons, blood work is an important way to ensure our pets are staying healthy and getting the best care we can give.

What is baseline blood work?

What do we mean when we say baseline blood work? When we run blood work we get specific values indicative of organ function. This tells the doctor whether your pet’s blood is within, or outside of a normal range. The ranges are different depending on the species of animal. Even though we have these standard comparative values, each pet is unique in their exact blood values. This uniqueness is what makes baseline blood work so important.

Baseline blood work is an initial blood test done when an animal is young, between the ages of one and four years old. Assuming the animal is healthy, this will provide results that future blood tests can be compared to. Baseline blood work is an extremely useful tool for the veterinarian. With baseline blood work your vet can detect subtle changes in your pet’s health to prevent or preemptively treat heath problems that might arise.

At the age of four years, it is time to start doing yearly blood work. Our pets age so quickly that at four years old they are already well into adulthood. After four, we can start to see some big changes in our pets and we prefer to nip health problems in the bud. Between the ages of seven to nine years most animals are considered seniors. Around this time is when we recommend starting senior wellness blood work. Senior wellness blood work should be run yearly and it often includes a few extra tests directed towards vital organ function than normal adult wellness blood work does not include. If any values are outside of the normal range your veterinarian can recommend a treatment plan to help your pet live a long, pain-free life.

Why is blood work important before surgery?

Almost every pet in its lifetime will have some form of surgery. Whether the surgery is a spay, neuter, dental cleaning, or something more serious, blood work is a major part of any surgical procedure. At LSAC we offer two options for blood work. If the pet is under the age of four years and is having a routine spay or neuter, owners have the option to forgo the full panel and just run a PCV (packed cell volume) and total blood protein. While these tests have a lower cost, they only indicate anemia, or decrease in red blood cells, and not organ function. In some cases, pets can have illnesses not indicated by these tests which can cause life threatening complications during anesthesia. For this reason among others, we encourage owners to run a full panel.

A full blood panel includes a CBC (complete blood count), chemistry, and electrolytes test. These tests are extremely inclusive and indicate that all of the organ systems are functioning normally. It is extremely important to have this information because anesthesia can cause small problems to become large ones if they are not addressed prior to surgery. Running a full panel is always our preference and is always the safest way to do surgery.

Blood work for physical and behavioral change?

Another instance where blood work is vital is when a physical or behavioral change takes place. Behavior and physical change can indicate a larger issue. Often these problems can relate to pain the animal is having or changes they are feeling. This is a perfect time to run a full panel of blood work. This way we can find what is wrong with your pet and either cure it or treat it. Blood work is just as important for our pets as it is for us and serves as a wonderful diagnostic tool.