What Blood Tests Can Tell You About Your Cat's Health

When Will A Veterinarian Order Blood Tests For Cats

In some cases, the symptoms your cat is showing affords a veterinarian the opportunity for a relatively straightforward diagnosis. However, other times the diagnosis may not be obvious and additional information will be required. In such a case, your veterinarian will order feline blood tests to aid in his or her investigation. The following situations can result in the need for blood tests for cats:

On the first veterinary visit:  Blood tests are recommended to establish healthy baseline tests and to check for any congenital abnormalities or potential concerns

During semi-annual wellness exams:  Blood tests are recommended if your veterinarian suggests it as part of a thorough physical examination because cat blood work, along with other bodily fluids like urine, can help identify conditions the examination portion of a physical cannot

If a cat seems not quite right:  Cat blood tests are suitable for cats that are not displaying any overt signs of illness, disease or injury, but are acting abnormally

Pre-surgical tests:  Cat bloodwork is used to determine the general health of the liver and kidneys, which helps a veterinarian select the safest form of anesthesia. Blood work can also help determine the surgical risk level in infirmed, elderly or injured patients

During senior wellness exams:  Cat blood tests are usually recommended for cats as part of their periodic senior wellness exams. These are extremely beneficial, as we often see senior cats return to a more youthful state of being when blood tests identify an issue that can be easily treated.  

At Metairie Small Animal Hospital, blood tests for cats can be processed and analyzed on premises at our in-house laboratory. Having an on-site laboratory allows us to quickly and reliably determine and diagnose a health concern, and then implement a successful medical intervention based on the results.  We also maintain relationships with outside laboratories which are used when results are not needed immediately or when ordering more complicated tests.

Types of Feline Blood Work

The four most common types of feline blood work we order are:

Feline Leukemia-Feline Immunodeficiency Virus:  This is a common test for kittens and cats, especially those coming from unknown origins. These viruses are interspecies contagious and life-threatening, so we recommend feline bloodwork to test for both if you adopt, find or take in a new kitten or cat

Complete Blood Count (CBC):  We analyze cat bloodwork to assess features of the blood, including red and white cell count, immunity status, and the measure of hemoglobin, which is the actual substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen. We also examine hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability and immune system response. A CBC is essential for cats that have symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums or loss of appetite. A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other unseen abnormalities as part of a pre-surgery risk assessment

Blood Serum Chemistry:  We analyze cat bloodwork to evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels and more. These tests are important to evaluating the health of older cats, cats with signs of vomiting, diarrhea or toxin exposure, as well as cats receiving long-term medications and to assess general health before anesthesia

Total Thyroid Level:  We analyze cat bloodwork for hyperthyroidism, as well as the reverse condition, hypothyroidism, or a low thyroid function that can indicate disease in a cat's body

Additionally, our in-house laboratory can process and analyze:

  • Urinalysis
  • Stool Samples
  • Cytology

What Can Be Learned From Feline Blood Tests

The results of feline blood tests are essential to helping veterinarians diagnose and treat medical conditions both within the blood itself, as well as in organs such as the kidney and liver. During a blood test for cats, various chemicals in the bloodstream are analyzed. 

Once we establish a correlation, we can order any subsequent feline blood work procedures necessary to arresting and treating the condition. In this way, feline blood tests serve as very valuable tools in a veterinarian's toolkit for helping to detect, identify, diagnose and ultimately treat illness or disease.

Understanding Your Cat's Bloodwork

After we process and analyze a cat bloodwork sample, the next step is to help our patient's human caretaker fully understand any abnormal results. Your cat's blood work allows our veterinarians to evaluate the following:

Albumin (ALB):  This is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage and intestinal, liver and kidney disease.

Alkaline phosphatase (ALKP):  Elevations in this test may indicate liver damage or active bone growth in a young cat. This test is especially significant in cats.

Alanine aminotansferase (ALT):  This test may determine active liver damage, but does not indicate the cause.

Amylase (AMYL):  Elevations in this test indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.

Aspartate aminotransferase (AST):  Increases in this test may indicate liver, heart or skeletal muscle damage.

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN):  This test determines kidney function. An increased level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver and heart disease as well as urethral obstruction, shock or dehydration.

Calcium (Ca):  Changes in the normal level of this test can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium.

Cholesterol (CHOL):  This test is used to supplement the diagnosis of liver disease and diabetes mellitus.

Chloride (Cl):  Chloride is an electrolyte that is typically lost with symptoms like vomiting or illnesses such as Addison's disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration.

Coristol (CORT):  Cortisol is a hormone that is measured in tests for Cushing's disease (the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison's disease (ACTH stimulation test).

Creatinine (CREA):  This test reveals kidney function and helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN.

Globulin (GLOB):  This is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states.

Glucose (GLU):  Glucose is a blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures or coma.

Potassium (K):  This is an electrolyte typically lost with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison's disease, dehydration or urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest.

Lipase (LIP):  Lipase is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis.

Sodium (Na):  Sodium is an electrolyte often lost with signs vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease, and Addison's disease. This test helps indicate hydration status.

Phosphorus (PHOS):  Elevations in this test are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and bleeding disorders.

Total bilirubin (TBIL):  Elevations in this test may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia.

Total protein:  This test indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys and infectious diseases.

Thyroxine (T4):  Thyroxine is a thyroid hormone. High levels indicate hyperthyroidism in cats.

The Role Of Cat Bloodwork In Diagnosis Of Disease

Cat bloodwork is an essential component in the diagnosis of disease. Just like any diagnostic tool, blood tests for cats are more effective when used as part of a diagnostic plan which may include other tests. For example, elevated BUN and creatinine levels can indicate a kidney problem. However, they can also indicate mild dehydration in the period leading up to the bloodwork. This is why ordering additional testing, such as a urinalysis, may be necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

If your cat is exhibiting any abnormal behavior, please schedule a veterinary appointment today!

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