Confused About Your Pet’s Blood Work?
When Blood Work Makes Sense
- Before surgery
- When your pet is sick
- Establish a baseline “normal” for your pet’s blood work before the Golden Years
- Routine monitoring of health problems or long-term medication use
- Keep a close eye on overall health as your pet ages
What Are We Checking?
How are those internal organs doing? The kidneys, liver, pancreas, heart, intestines—you name it. We also can check for signs of disease (e.g., diabetes, Cushing’s, Addison’s) or other medical problems (e.g., kidney failure, dehydration, shock).
Another benefit of blood work is to establish a baseline–what is normal for your pet? By having a baseline, if your pet does get sick, we have a glimpse as to how much they have changed.
Curious about what all those abbreviations and tests are for? Check out our handout on understanding blood work.
When to Start?
If your pet has been healthy overall with no medical problems or medications, we recommend blood work:
- Dogs at 5-7 years old
- Cats at 6-8 years old
How Often to Repeat Your Pet’s Blood Work?
If your pet’s blood work is normal, we recommend yearly blood tests after hitting middle age (5-7 years for dogs; 6-8 years for cats). Keep in mind that our pets age faster than we do. A dog ages 5-9 years for every one of our years. Cats age 4-5 years to every one of our years.
If your pet has health problems, you might do blood work 2-3 times a year depending on the issue, severity, and overall health of your pet. We also look at the trends in your pet’s blood work to determine how often things should be rechecked.
We often will recommend a rechecking the blood in 4-6 weeks after prescribing a new medication or a dietary change. This lets everyone know if things are working or not. If so, great! Stay the course. If not, we can make modifications and find another solution.
What Happens Behind the Scenes?
Let’s skip the part that might make you queasy. So…we magically have 3 milliliters (less than a teaspoon) of your pet’s blood. Different tests use different parts of the blood so we put the sample in two different tubes.
One tube has a special agent (EDTA) in it that prevents the blood from clotting. We run your pet’s Complete Blood Count (CBC) and Heartworm test with this sample.
The second tube has no chemical so the blood will clot in about ten minutes. Once the blood clots, we spin the tube in a centrifuge for about ten minutes.
This machine spins the sample at a high rate so the “solids” of the blood sample (e.g., red and white blood cells) settle to the bottom. The serum is what rises to the top. Serum is usually clear. If it is yellowish or cloudy, those can indicate an underlying health problem.
We use the serum then for the specific tests that the doctor requests. Most results are available quickly, anywhere from a few seconds to just over five minutes. We love having lab equipment in house to answer questions quickly, especially when your pet is sick.
It isn’t free. We get that. And it may not always be in someone’s budget. We can appreciate that, too.
Think about the cost based on the amount of information you can gain about your pet. For just over $100, you are getting a CBC, electrolytes, and 10 different blood chemistries. And that doesn’t include the peace of mind knowing your pet is healthy inside and out!
Please ask for an estimate if you ever have questions on the price of any lab work. We understand the importance of keeping a budget.