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Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

Whether used as a part of routine care or in an urgent care situation, blood tests can provide your vet with valuable insight into your pet's health. Here, our Orange vets share some information about the use of blood tests for dogs, including why and when they are needed and what they show us.

What is the purpose of blood tests for dogs?

Blood tests can be used as a part of routine care for dogs as well as to help diagnose conditions. When we detect diseases early, prevention and treatment can be administered earlier.

Healthy pets also need blood tests during routine wellness exams to obtain normal baseline values to compare to later and as your pet ages.

If your dog is displaying symptoms, diagnostic blood tests play an essential role in helping your vet determine the cause of your dog's symptoms. 

What will we learn from my dog's blood tests?

A complete blood count (CBC) and complete blood chemistry panel, including electrolytes and urinalysis, are common tests.

The CBC identifies whether there is anemia, inflammation, or infection present. It can also indicate immune system response and blood clotting ability. A chemistry panel and electrolytes tell your vet whether your pet’s liver, kidneys, and pancreas are working as they should.

This important lab work can also detect and help identify complex issues within a dog’s internal systems. For example, blood tests for dogs can detect whether internal or environmental stimuli are causing hormonal-chemical responses. This tells a veterinarian there may be a potential problem with the dog’s endocrine system.

When are blood tests recommended for dogs?

There are several situations where blood tests may be required for your dog including:

  • Your pet's first vet visit (to establish baseline data and for pre-anesthetic testing before a spaying or neutering procedure).
  • Semi-annual routine exams as preventive care.
  • During senior exams to look for age-related conditions in the earliest stages.
  • As part of pre-surgical testing to identify your dog's risk of complications during surgery.
  • Before starting a new medication.
  • If your dog is showing odd behaviors.
  • During emergencies to assess their overall condition.

How long does blood work take at a vet clinic?

Thanks to our in-house lab, our vets can perform a variety of tests and get results quickly. The amount of time that a test takes will vary depending on several factors such as what types of blood tests are being performed and what we are looking for. Your vet will be able to provide you with expected timelines.

What will my vet learn from the blood test results?

At Vet4HealthyPet, we will always take the time to explain your dog’s blood tests and their results, as treatment and management of health issues are a team effort between our veterinary team and loving pet owners.

Typically, your dog's bloodwork will include a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC will be important for dogs that have pale gums or are experiencing vomiting, fever, weakness, or loss of appetite. Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea also fall into this category.

A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other abnormalities that may not be identified otherwise.

CBC (Complete Blood Count):

  • Hematocrit (HCT): With this test, we can identify the percentage of red blood cells to detect hydration or anemia.
  • Hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are pigments of red blood cells that carry oxygen.
  • White blood cell count (WBC): With this test, we measure the body’s immune cells. Certain diseases or infections can cause WBC to increase or decrease.
  • Granulocytes and lymphocytes/monocytes (GRANS and L/M): These are specific types of white blood cells.
  • Eosinophils (EOS): These are a specific type of white blood cells that can indicate health conditions due to allergies or parasites.
  • Platelet count: (PLT): This test measures cells that form blood clots.
  • Reticulocytes (RETICS): High levels of immature red blood cells can point to regenerative anemia.
  • Fibrinogen (FIBR): We can glean important information about blood clotting from this test. High levels can indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant.

Blood Chemistries Reveal (Blood Serum Test):

Blood chemistries (blood serum tests) give us insight into a dog’s organ function (liver, kidneys, and pancreas), hormone levels, electrolyte status, and more.

Your vet may use this test to assess the health of senior dogs, do general health assessments before anesthesia, or monitor dogs receiving long-term medications.

These tests also help us evaluate senior dogs’ health and those with symptoms of diseases (such as Addison’s, diabetes, kidney diseases, or others), diarrhea, vomiting, or toxin exposure.

Should my dog have blood tests?

At Vet4HealthyPet our vets recommend blood tests for pets conducted in our veterinary diagnostic laboratory in Orange as a proactive measure during an annual routine exam, even if your dog seems perfectly healthy. This allows us to identify issues before they become too serious.

Our veterinary team will always advocate for your pet’s health, explain any tests that are needed and why, and take a preventive approach to your dog’s veterinary care.

How much are blood tests for dogs?

As with many other veterinary care services, the costs for diagnostic services, including blood work, will vary from clinic to clinic and from pet to pet. This is because several different factors contribute to the final cost.

This can be the location of the clinic and the expertise of the practitioner as well as the type of equipment used. The depth of testing required also plays a role in the final amount that you will pay.

Please speak with your vet to discuss the estimate of the cost for your pet and a breakdown of the bill.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have questions about the results of your dog's recent blood tests? Please contact our Orange vets to schedule a consultation.

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