When Will a Veterinarian Order Blood Tests for Cats?
Sometimes 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. At other times your cat's condition will call for further examination. Blood tests can aid our veterinarians in their investigation and help them arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
The following situations call for blood tests:
- On the first veterinary visit: This is recommended to establish a healthy baseline and to check for congenital abnormalities or other potential health concerns.
- During semi-annual wellness exams: Your veterinarian may suggest blood work because it can help identify conditions not revealed during a physical examination.
- If a cat seems not quite right: Cat blood tests are suitable for cats that are not displaying any overt signs of illness, disease or injury but are behaving abnormally.
- Pre-surgical tests: Cat blood tests are 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 level of surgical risk for infirm, elderly or injured patients.
- 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, as we often see senior cats return to a more youthful state when blood tests identify an issue that can be easily treated.
At GoodVets , blood tests for cats are processed and analyzed at our in-house laboratory. Having an on-site lab enables us to quickly and reliably determine and diagnose health conditions and 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 of unknown origin. These viruses are contagious and life-threatening, so we recommend feline blood work to test for both conditions if you adopt or take in a new kitten or cat.
- Complete Blood Count (CBC): We analyze cat blood tests to assess features of the blood such as red and white cell, antigen, and hemoglobin counts. We also examine hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability and immune system response. A complete blood count (CBC) test 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, and cats receiving long-term medications. We also use blood tests to evaluate general health before administering anesthesia.
- Total Thyroid Level: We analyze cat blood work for hyperthyroidism, as well as the opposite condition, euthyroidism, or a low thyroid function that can indicate the presence of other diseases in cats.
Additionally, our in-house laboratory can process and analyze:
- Stool samples
What Can Be Learned from Feline Blood Tests
The results of feline blood tests are essential for helping veterinarians diagnose and treat medical conditions both within the blood itself as well as in organs such as the kidney and liver. We analyze various chemicals in the bloodstream including albumin, low levels of which indicate liver trouble, and hormonal imbalances that indicate problems with the patient's endocrine system. Once we establish a correlation, we can order subsequent procedures to arrest and treat the condition. Feline blood tests are valuable tools for detecting, identifying, diagnosing and ultimately treating illness and disease in cats.
Understanding Your Cat's Blood Tests
After we process and analyze a cat's blood work, the next step is to help our patient's human caretaker fully understand any abnormal results. Your cat's blood work enables our veterinarians to evaluate the following:
- Albumin (ALB): This serum protein assists in evaluating 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 does not indicate the cause.
- Amylase (AMYL): Elevations in this test indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.
- Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): Elevations in this test may indicate liver, heart or skeletal muscle damage.
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): This test indicates 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): Abnormal levels 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 the diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes mellitus.
- Chloride (Cl): Chloride is an electrolyte typically lost through vomiting or in illnesses such as Addison’s disease. Elevation often indicates dehydration.
- Coristol (CORT): Cortisol is a hormone measured in tests for Cushing’s disease (low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison’s disease (ACTH stimulation test).
- Creatinine (CREA): This test reveals kidney function and helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN.
- Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT): This enzyme 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 result in collapse, seizures or coma.
- Potassium (K): This electrolyte is typically lost through 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 often lost through vomiting or diarrhea or in 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 Diagnosis of Disease
Cat blood work is an essential component in the diagnosis of disease. As with 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 test. This is why additional testing is sometimes necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
Lab work can reveal a lot about your cat's health, and preventative medicine is the key to a long and healthy life for your feline companion. Call us today to schedule lab work for your cat to ensure his or her good health.