Health – The Beauty of Lab Work

October 8, 2014 at 10:38 pm

bigstock-veterinary-care--french-bulld-36545386Dr. Tom Adducci

As your family companion begins to advance in age, yearly screening of blood and urine is recommended. These tests give us valuable information about your pet. It can serve as an early indicator of health issues that may be starting to develop, but are not yet physically notable. We encourage lab work early in your pet’s life to establish a baseline which can then give us a better chance at discovering any health issues early on. This will enable us to make recommendations for specific diets, supplements or medications which will keep your pet as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Parameters that are typically examined in the blood tests include: liver enzymes, kidney function values, electrolytes, blood glucose, red blood cell and white blood cell counts.

  • Liver Enzymes – ALT, ALP, AST – Abnormalities in these tests can indicate toxin exposure, hepatitis secondary to immune system disorders and infections (bacterial or viral), cancer, cirrhosis, adverse response to medications (intentionally given or accidental exposure) and even diseases of other body systems.
  • Renal Function Tests – BUN, Creatinine – The kidney’s job is to rid the body of these two waste compounds. When there is a loss of kidney function either or both of them become elevated. The source of impaired kidney function include; congenital kidney malformation, degeneration from aging, infection (pyelonephritis or leptospirosis),    immune system disorders, toxin exposure or adverse drug reactions (intentional medications or accident exposure).
  • Blood Glucose – An elevation in blood glucose may be consistent with diabetes mellitus. A decrease can indicate infection, liver disease or anorexia (especially in small breed puppies that are not eating well).
  • Electrolytes – Sodium, potassium and chloride – Abnormalities in these values are often associated with and secondary to vomiting, diarrhea, generalized metabolic illness and endocrine diseases such as Addison’s disease.
  • Red blood cell count – Decreased red blood cells (anemia) can be associated with chronic systemic illness, hormonal imbalances (low thyroid), intestinal parasites, chronic or acute hemorrhage, autoimmune disease or disease of the bone marrow.
    An increased red blood cell count can be seen with dehydration and, in rare cases, severe lung disease, kidney cancer or bone marrow cancer.
  • White blood cell count – Elevations in the white blood cell count are associated with any kind of infection, generalized inflammation, internal and external parasites, stress and rarely leukemia-type illnesses.
    Decreased white blood cell counts are seen with over-whelming infection or bone marrow diseases.

Urinalysis is a very important screening test for evidence of any kind of early kidney disease, urinary tract infection, diabetes and immune mediated diseases directed at the kidneys.

Typical parameters examined with a standard urinalysis include:

  • Specific Gravity – A measure of the urine concentration. A normal kidney removes water from the urine and makes it very concentrated. With a loss of kidney function the kidney cannot remove water properly and the urine becomes dilute.
  • Presence of red blood cells – If too many red blood cells are noted it can indicate infection, inflammation, trauma or the presence of bladder or kidney stones.
  • Presence of white blood cells – If there are too many white blood cells it can indicate a bladder or kidney infection.
  • Glucose – The presence of sugar in the urine is abnormal. If found in the urine it most often indicates diabetes but can also be seen with leptospirosis infection, severe stress and some hereditary kidney problems.
  • Ketones – Ketones are breakdown products found in abnormal metabolism and most often occurs in the urine of patients with diabetes mellitus.
  • Bacteria – Urine is supposed to be sterile. The presence of bacteria may indicate infection.

In many cases the screening comes back normal and we love nothing better than to call owners with the great news that everything looks perfect in their pet’s blood and urine tests! If your pet should ever become ill, these early baseline values that were established for your pet become invaluable. These values are used as a comparison and can help us gauge the severity and progression of any illness.

So remember to have annual blood and urine screening for your family pet. It is a vital component of their preventative care that can really benefit in giving them the best opportunity to live a long, happy and healthy life!

For more information:

Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital


Phone: 303-424-3325