Your vet has recommended bloodwork for your cat. But why does your cat need bloodwork? What can they tell you about your animal companion's health, and how often should bloodwork be done? Our team of Benton vets explain how to understand blood tests for your cat.
Why does my cat need bloodwork?
If your vet has ordered bloodwork for your pet, you may not understand why it is necessary. However, bloodwork tests are a vital part of your cat's overall care and these important diagnostic tests can tell us a lot about your cat's health.
For certain procedures such as dental surgery, your cat's blood will need to be tested to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure.
The role bloodwork can play in your cat's care cannot be overstated. In our diagnostic lab at Saline County Animal Clinic, our team of professionals is able to perform a range of common and specialized blood tests to assess your cat's health, as well as to monitor and diagnose illnesses including conditions ranging from tick-borne diseases to cancer.
What tests are performed when bloodwork is done?
Bloodwork is not the same every time and at every clinic. If your vet has ordered bloodwork for your vet, feel free to ask exactly what they will be testing for.
Our veterinarians will be able to explain your cat's condition, any diagnostic tests that may be required, and what we can expect to learn from them in simple terms.
Some of the most common veterinary blood tests performed are CBC (Complete Blood Count) and a serum chemistry panel. Each test provides us with different but complementary information.
With a CBC, we can measure a patient's white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and platelet count. We can also usually obtain some data about the size and/or shape of red and white blood cells.
A chemistry panel allows us to evaluate organ function values such as kidney and liver function, as well as electrolyte levels and other critical enzymes that can be measured in the bloodstream.
Fortunately, we have advanced tools and technologies in our in-house vet lab to help accurately diagnose your cat's medical issues. When your cat is feeling ill or their health is rapidly changing, early diagnosis and treatment are critical.
What will my vet learn from bloodwork for cats?
What insights we're able to gain into your cat's health depend on the type of bloodwork ordered. For example, we can order a variety of CBC and chemistry panels that can bring us different data depending on what we need to measure and what we are hoping to learn about your cat's health.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Each type of white blood cell has a unique response to any threat that the immune system faces. A CBC can be used by the vet to determine the total number of white blood cells in your cat's blood sample, as well as the number of each type of white blood cell. Red blood cells (RBCs) transport oxygen to all of the body's tissues. A CBC counts the RBCs in your cat's blood and determines how well they transport oxygen based on the levels of hemoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) in your cat's blood.
Platelets help with blood clotting. If your cat has an insufficient number of platelets, blood may be slow to clot and your cat may bleed abnormally or excessively. A CBC will count how many platelets are in your cat’s blood.
For example, we can request a routine CBC, which provides numerical values associated with cell counts in samples obtained from a diagnostic machine. A CBC with pathology review will be sent to a clinical pathologist, who will examine a blood sample under a microscope to ensure the counts provided by the machine are accurate. He or she can also tell if there are any abnormal cells (damage to cells can indicate leukemia, infections, anemia, poisoning, parasites, or other serious health problems).
The reason bloodwork is done before surgery is that a CBC can detect low platelet levels. Platelets play a critical role in helping to stop bleeding, so must be at certain levels to avoid your cat losing too much blood. If platelets are low, this may also indicate serious infections (such as tick-borne illnesses) or life-threatening diseases.
Blood Chemistry Profile
We can learn much about the compounds in your cat’s bloodstream from a blood chemistry profile, which can tell you how well your cat’s kidneys are functioning.
In addition, we can determine whether there may be abnormalities in renal systems, or if your cat is dehydrated or an object is obstructing these areas.
The liver plays an important role in your cat’s health, and elevated chemical values here could indicate liver disease or abnormalities in other organs. This test can also reveal any abnormal electrolyte levels, which can be related to illnesses and conditions such as seizures, gastrointestinal disease, and others.
Blood protein levels are another important aspect of your cat's physical health; some help the immune system function, while others help the blood clot properly. A blood chemistry profile can provide important information about total protein levels, albumin levels, and globulin levels.
Despite the many things we can learn from bloodwork, the results rarely tell us whether or not your cat has cancer or if it has spread throughout its body. CBC and chemistry panels, on the other hand, can confirm that an animal's body is responding to the prescribed treatment plan without complications such as anemia or elevated kidney values. If these are not detected, they can result in blood loss, collapse due to weakness, or organ failure.
How often should my cat's blood be tested?
Now that you understand some of the most common blood tests and what they can tell us about your cat's health, you're probably wondering how often your cat should have this done as part of their health checkup.
Our canine companions have much shorter lives than we do. That is why we recommend annual bloodwork for healthy cats. Semi-annual tests are typically recommended for cats approaching their geriatric years. If your cat is undergoing anesthesia, bloodwork should be current (within a month).
Cats who are ill or have health issues may require bloodwork more frequently - monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly, depending on the severity of the health issue.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding cats. For an accurate diagnosis of your cat's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.