What can I learn from lab tests?
As a conscientious pet owner, you know taking your cat to the vet’s for routine exams is critical to their health, but what do the lab tests your vet completes actually tell them about your kitty?
And how can that information help you better understand your cat’s health and how to care for them?
At Providence Animal Hospital in Charlotte, we treat our patients with a prevention-first approach. When we examine your pet, we perform a complete physical exam, including blood and urine screenings.
Those last two are tests that reveal a lot of data about your pet’s internal health and are just as critical as any other component of their checkup.
Our in-house laboratory allows us to get results quickly, so any symptoms can be diagnosed and treatment can begin as soon as possible.
A basic blood screen will typically include a complete blood count (CBC), in addition to a blood chemistry profile. Your vet may also recommend testing for feline leukemia and AIDS, as well as thyroid hormone levels.
Here’s a description of what each can tell us:
Complete Blood Count
This test takes an inventory of your cat’s red and white blood cells, in addition to platelets. Each type of white blood cell has a specific response to any threat faced by the immune system.
The vet can use a CBC to analyze the total number of white blood cells, as well as how many of each type of white blood cell are present in your cat’s blood sample.
Red blood cells (RBCs) transport oxygen to the body’s numerous tissues. A CBC counts the RBCs in your cat’s blood and reveals how well they move oxygen based on the levels of hemoglobin (protein that carries the oxygen) in your kitty’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.
Blood Chemistry Profile
We can learn much about the compounds in your cat’s blood stream 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 critical element of your cat’s physical health - many play a role in the immune system’s functioning, while others help the blood to clot properly. A blood chemistry profile will reveal valuable information about total protein levels, albumin levels and globulin levels.
Thyroid Hormone Measurements
We can measure thyroid hormones to determine whether your cat may have hyperthyroidism, which usually impacts middle-aged and senior cants. The disease can lead to elevated levels of the thyroid hormone in your cat’s blood stream.
Feline AIDS and Feline Leukemia Testing
Feline AIDS and feline leukemia are a very real threat to cats if they have not been tested previously, are sick or are at high risk for exposure (or have been exposed to another cat with one of these viruses). Though retroviruses may cause both of these, they differ from one another.
Depending on the results these basic blood tests reveal, your vet may recommend more specialized testing.
You’re officially forewarned: you’ll have to do some dirty work yourself for this test and bring in a sample of your cat’s urine to their regular physical exam appointment.
However, these results are critical as the test can detect potentially life-threatening conditions and diseases, including incontinence, cushing’s syndrome, urinary tract infections, bladder stones, kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes.
Early detection is key to your cat’s health, and these tests can potentially reveal valuable results that you and your veterinarian can then take action on.
Your pet may be able to live a healthier, happier and longer life if these conditions are diagnosed and treated before they develop into larger issues. Your vet may also be able to provide advice on general health and nutrition, as well as how you can take steps to prevent illnesses, diseases and conditions.