When it comes to blood work and lab tests, it can be confusing to figure out what is needed and when. The right tests at the right time can help detect treatable diseases before they become seriously harmful to our beloved pets. Below we are going to discuss commonly recommended tests, the purpose they serve, and how often they need to be done.
Heartworm is a parasite that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Along with the front range, heartworm infection (while still only about 1 in 100 dogs) is becoming more common. Dogs and cats can be infected, but only dogs can pass the worms to new mosquitoes. If able to set up an infection, heartworms will affect your pet’s heart, blood, and lungs causing organ damage, lung disease, and heart failure if left untreated.
To test, a few drops of blood are taken from your pet. It is recommended that you test at least every two years but yearly is best.
Blood Work Tests
These types of tests are great at getting a general picture of your pet’s overall health, diagnosing disease, or tracking specific conditions over time. They can do this by looking at the level of specific molecules, hormones, or proteins and comparing them to a pool of healthy animals. Basic blood tests are capable of analyzing the following:
● Liver function – The liver processes, breaks down, balances, and creates nutrients for the rest of the body. It also metabolizes drugs used in anesthesia and treating disease.
● Kidney function – Kidney failure is a common cause of disease in older dogs and cats. Catching changes early can add years and health to your pet’s life.
● Complete blood count – This test checks red and white blood cells looking for anemia, dehydration, infection, platelets, and more…
● Blood glucose – This test tells us if your pet has developed diabetes.
The frequency of these tests will vary depending on your pet’s health and age. We require all pets over five years old to be tested before anesthesia and will usually recommend yearly testing for senior pets. If your pet has been diagnosed with a chronic disease more frequent and specific testing may be needed.
Fecal and Urine Tests
While it may be the least glamorous testing on the list, fecal and urine tests give us insight into the digestive and urinary systems. Urine, for example, is analyzed for its pH (degree of acidity or alkalinity), protein percentage, specific gravity (density), glucose levels, and more. This tells us about infection, bladder stones, their diet, and kidney health. Some vets will recommend these tests at every yearly exam, while others will only test when your pet is showing symptoms.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what goes into your pet’s lab work, we hope you can take an active role in forming your pet’s routine testing plan.