Understanding Your Dog/Cat’s Blood Work

blood workWhat Does This Blood Work Mean?

Here at the River Road Veterinary Clinic, our animal patients undergo surgeries on a daily basis.  Although most surgeries involve no complications, there are still a few that do. We always recommend that our patients have pre-anesthetic blood work done prior to surgery. Even if there are no indications that our pets are ill in any way, a healthy looking pet could have an underlying problem that we would never know about unless blood work is done. As we all know, animals cannot talk and they rely on us to find out if anything is wrong.  If nothing is wrong with the blood work, we have established a “baseline” for your pet’s blood values. If anything were to happen to your pet down the road, we could refer back to the previous “baseline” to find out what values are abnormal for your pet.

Blood work is also recommended for almost all sick animals that come into the clinic as well as all geriatric animals. Early disease detection, diagnosing an acute illness and establishing a normal baseline are all common reasons to do blood work on an animal. If a veterinarian decides that blood work is appropriate for your pet he/she will discuss the results with you when they are available. Most often the doctor will indicate to you if any values are out of the normal range, if this is concerning, and what it might indicate.

A chemistry panel is done in order to test organ function and check electrolyte balance, while a CBC/Profile indicates if there are any abnormalities present with the cells in the blood. Below is a brief summary of what each type of blood work tests for:


Albumin (ALB): A protein which is produced by the liver. Reduced levels of this protein can point to chronic liver or kidney disease, intestinal disease, or intestinal parasites.

Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT): An enzyme that becomes elevated with liver disease or injury.

Alkaline Phosphatase (ALKP): An enzyme produced by the cells lining the bladder and its associated ducts. Elevated levels can indicate liver disease or Cushing’s syndrome.

Amylase (AMYL): An enzyme produced by the pancreas. The pancreas secretes amylase to aid in digestion. Elevated blood levels can indicate pancreatic and/or kidney disease.

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN/UREA): BUN is produced by the liver and excreted by the kidneys. Abnormal levels can indicate dehydration, and liver and kidney abnormalities.

Calcium (Ca ++): Increased levels can be seen with diseases of the parathyroid gland and kidneys or as an indicator of certain types of tumors.

Chloride (Cl-): A component of stomach acid. If there’s a large loss of chloride, the blood may become more acidic and prevent certain necessary chemical reactions from occurring in the body.

Cholesterol (CHOL): Elevated levels of cholesterol are seen in a variety of disorders, including genetic disease, liver and kidney disease and hypothyroidism.

Creatinine (CREA): Creatinine is a by-product of muscle metabolism and is excreted by the kidneys. Elevated levels can indicate kidney disease or urinary tract obstruction.

Gamma-glutamyl Transferase (GGT): An enzyme found in most tissues, including the liver. It is elevated in disease of the bile ducts and in some liver diseases.

Globulin (GLOB): Globulins are important in the immune response. High levels can help to indicate autoimmune disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and certain infections.

Glucose (GLU): High levels can indicate diabetes. In cats, high levels can indicate stress, which can merely be a result of the trip to the vet. Low levels can indicate liver disease, infection, or certain tumors.

Lipase (LIPA): An enzyme that plays a large role in the digestion, transportation and processing of fats. Lipase levels are elevated in cases of pancreatitis.

Phosphorous (PHOS): Elevated phosphorous can be an indicator of kidney disease.

Total Bilirubin (TBIL): Bilirubin is a breakdown product of hemoglobin and is a component of bile. Bilirubin is secreted by the liver into the intestinal tract. Blood bilirubin levels are useful in diagnosing anemia and problems in the bile ducts.

Total Protein (TP): The level of TP can detect a variety of conditions including dehydration and diseases of the liver, kidney or gastrointestinal tract.

 Potassium (K+): Electrolyte balance is vital to your pet’s health. Abnormal levels can be life threatening. Electrolyte tests are important in evaluating vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and cardiac (heart) symptoms.

Sodium (Na+): If a pet becomes dehydrated because of vomiting, diarrhea, or inadequate fluid intake, the sodium levels can be abnormally high or low, which can cause confusion, weakness, or lethargy.

Urea Nitrogen to Creatinine Ratio (BUN/CREA): An elevated ratio is useful in diagnosing gastrointestinal bleeding, while a decreased ratio can indicate liver disease and malnutrition.

Albumin to Globulin Ratio(ALB/GLOB): Both of these are serum proteins. A high ratio can indicate nephrosis and liver dysfunction where a low ratio can indicate chronic infection, liver and kidney disease, and autoimmune disorders.

Serum Osmolality (OSM Calc): This test measures the amount of chemicals dissolved in the serum of the blood. It can indicate dehydration or overhydration.

Sodium Potassium Ratio (Na+/K+): Increased or decreased ratios can indicate an electrolyte imbalance. A decreased ratio can also indicate Addison’s disease.


Pack Cell Volume (PCV): Provides information on the amount of red blood cells (RBCs) present in the blood. This test is used to diagnose anemia.

Complete Blood Count (CBC): A more complete panel of tests, a CBC provides detailed information on RBC’s (Red blood cells), WBC’s (white blood cells) and platelets. These tests can indicate anemia, infection, leukemia, stress, the presence of inflammation, or an inability to fight infection. Platelets are involved in blood clotting and if low can indicate a bleeding problem.

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