Blood Work Protocols

Keeping your pet healthy is one of the most important parts of my job. There are many different aspects to wellness care, with vaccinations and annual exams being just a small part of preventative medicine. Many diseases can be prevented, or at least minimized by doing things such as having regular exams, vaccinating, spaying/neutering, keeping your pet at a healthy weight, and performing screening blood work. As a veterinarian, blood work is an important tool that I have available to help your pet maintain a long and healthy life. 
Screening blood work is important for many reasons. It can detect things such as early changes in organ function, abnormal hormone levels, and infections. In a healthy patient, it can give us baseline values for what is normal for your pet.

Pre-Anesthetic Blood Work

We recommend screening blood work prior to any pet going under anesthesia because of the risks associated with anesthesia. Your pet can have underlying condition such as kidney or liver disease that can greatly increase the risk of anesthesia. These conditions are often not apparent without blood work.

Senior Blood Work

Animals cannot tell us when they are not feeling 100%, and instinctually hide their illnesses as long as they can; and because many clinical signs do not develop until late in the disease process, early detection can add months or years to a pet’s life by allowing you to treat the disease before it reaches a critical stage. Blood work can help your veterinarian determine if your pet has certain diseases including diabetes, kidney failure, liver failure, and thyroid disease.

We recommend performing blood work on an annual basis once a pet is over 5 years of age. Even if your pet has been healthy throughout its life, your pet will become more susceptible to illness or developing a chronic condition as it ages and becomes a senior.

Doing blood work on an annual basis allows us to establish a baseline, and then track changes and trends over time. For example, if your pet’s kidney values are gradually increasing over time, this could alert us to a potential problem before it becomes a critical issue, even if those values are still normal.


Chronic Diseases and Medications

In addition to making a diagnosis, it is important to monitor the progression of a disease or the effect of a chronic medication on your pet’s system. There are many medications that have the potential to do harm when given chronically or at the wrong dosages. Performing periodic blood work allows us to adjust dosages or change medications if necessary before it becomes a critical issue for your pet.

Nsaids such as Rimadyl, Previcox, and Metacam have the potential to damage the liver or kidneys so we recommend doing periodic blood to check these organs.

Other medications including seizure and thyroid medications require periodic blood work to make sure the drug is at a therapeutic level in the system.

Our Blood Work Protocols
Pre-Anesthetic Testing
Pet Age Tests Required
Under 5 Years Liver/Kidney Values, CBC No
5-8 Years Liver/Kidney Values, CBC Yes
Over 8 Years Full Chemistry, CBC Yes
Disease Tests Required Frequency
Hypothyroidism (dogs) T4 1 month after starting medication and every 6 months thereafter
Free T4 Every 12 months
*All blood samples should be drawn just prior to when the next pill is due.
Hyperthyroidism (cats) T4 1 month after starting medication and every 6 months thereafter
Free T4, Chemistry, CBC Every 12 months
*All blood samples should be drawn just prior to when the next pill is due.
Addison’s Chemistry, CBC 1 month after starting medication and every 4 months thereafter
Cushing’s Chemistry, CBC 1 month after starting medication
ACTH Every 12 months
Urine Cortisol/Creatine Ratio, Urine Stick Every 12 months
Renal (Kidney) Disease Chemistry, CBC Every 4 months
Diabetes Glucose, Fructosamine Every 4 months
Medication Tests Required Frequency
Phenobarbitol Phenobarbitol Level 6 weeks after starting medication and every 6 months thereafter
Chemistry, CBC Every 12 months
*All blood samples should be drawn just prior to when the next pill is due.
Potassium Bromide Bromide Level 6 weeks after starting medication and every 12 months thereafter
Chemistry, CBC Every 12 months
*All blood samples should be drawn just prior to when the next pill is due.
Proin Blood Pressure, Chemistry, CBC, Urinalysis Every 12 months
Prednisone Chemistry, CBC Every 12 months
NSAIDS (Rimadyl, Previcox, Metacam, etc.) Chemistry, CBC, Urinalysis Every 6 months
What do the Tests Look For?
Test Purpose
Chemistry A chemistry panel is done to evaluate the health of the organs. For example how well is the kidney functioning? Is it filtering the appropriate enzymes? How is the liver doing? Are the liver enzymes at a level that indicates poor function?
CBC A complete blood count allows us to look at what the bone marrow is doing. Is it active in generating white blood cells to fight an infection? Is it properly responding to blood loss due to some illness? Do we have a certain white blood cell line that is elevated due to parasites?
T4 Thyroxine (T4) is one of the principle thyroid hormones and is used by cells to increase metabolism and stimulate growth in the young. This test measures the protein-bound form of the hormones. When there is too much T4 animals have hyperthroidism, and when there is not enough they are hypothyroid. Problems arise with each condition, and by running blood work we can confirm that the current problems are caused by an abnormal level of T4.
Free T4 A free T4 also helps with the confirmation of hypo or hyperthyroidism by measuring the amount of T4 that is not protein-bound. This level most likely represents the active form of the hormones and should be in equilibrium with the protein-bound hormones.
ACTH The Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) test checks the adrenal cortex. This system is mostly responsible for helping regulate the steroids of the body. When they are producing too much or too little, an animal will have issues with drinking too much or may have abdominal problems. By testing the ACTH we are looking to see how well the adrenal glands are responding to stimulation.
Urine Cortisol/Creatine Ratio Urine Cortisol/Creatine Ratio is a screening test for hyperadrenocorticism. This test is based on an idea that a cortisol concentration in a urine sample might reflect the average plasma cortisol during the time the urine was made. If the levels are elevated an ACTH test should be run.
Urinalysis A urinalysis tests for diabetes, renal insufficiency, and a urinary tract infection. When performed in conjunction with a CBC and chemistry panel it helps complete the entire picture what is going on inside an animal’s body.
Phenobarbitol Level This test measures the amount of Phenobarbitol that is in the system. Phenobarbitol is a drug that is used to help suppress seizures by increasing the seizure threshold. This drug is broken down by the liver and can be toxic if there is too much of it in the system.
Bromide Level This test measures the level of Potassium Bromide in the bloodstream. This drug is mainly used to help control seizures and is secreted through the kidneys. Potassium Bromide can be toxic is there is too much of it in the system.
Glucose Glucose is a common blood sugar that is measured when diagnosing or regulating diabetes. Also, smaller toy breeds will sometimes have low glucose levels, leading to lethargy and possibly death if not caught and treated appropriately. A glucose test is like a single snapshot in time.
Fructosamine Fructosamine is a blood protein that can be used to help regulate a diabetic patient. The fructosamine test helps provide an objective means of evaluating average blood glucose concentration over several weeks.