Blood work, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile, are noninvasive tests that provide information about your pet’s general health. These diagnostics are commonly recommended when a pet is sick, undergoing an anesthetic procedure, and for routine wellness checks. When blood work is performed on your pet, you may wonder what the results mean. Our Little Animal Hospital team wants to help by providing information about how to interpret your pet’s blood work results.

Interpreting your pet’s complete blood count

The CBC evaluates cells circulating in your pet’s blood and provides Information that includes:

  • Red blood cells (RBCs) — RBCs are produced by the bone marrow and are responsible for delivering oxygen from the lungs to cells throughout the body. A decreased RBC count (i.e., anemia) can occur if the bone marrow is not producing adequate cell numbers, if the cell’s lifespan is shortened, or if cells are lost through bleeding. An increased RBC count (i.e., polycythemia) typically indicates dehydration. The PCV (i.e., hematocrit) measures the number of RBCs in the total blood volume. A high PCV indicates dehydration, and a low PCV indicates anemia.
  • White blood cells (WBCs) — WBCs include:
  • Neutrophils — Neutrophils help fight infections. A decreased neutrophil count indicates conditions such as bone marrow disease and some viral diseases, and can be a response to chemotherapy drugs. An increased neutrophil count indicates inflammation or infection.
  • Lymphocytes — Lymphocytes generate antibodies to help fight infection. An increased lymphocyte count can indicate infection, and a decreased count can occur when a pet is severely stressed.
  • Monocytes — Monocytes are produced in the bone marrow, and increase when a pet has a chronic infection.
  • Eosinophils and basophils — Eosinophils and basophils increase when a pet has an allergic reaction or parasitic infection.
  • Platelets — Platelets are produced in the bone marrow and are involved in blood clotting. Low platelet counts occur if the bone marrow is damaged, or if the platelets are being destroyed faster than normal.

Interpreting your pet’s biochemistry profile

The biochemistry profile evaluates the fluid extracted from your pet’s blood sample to assess their organs, metabolic state, and electrolyte status. Information gained from a biochemistry profile includes:

  • Albumin — Albumin is a protein produced in the liver that prevents blood plasma from migrating from the blood vessels to the surrounding tissues. High levels indicate the pet is dehydrated, and low levels are seen in pets who have a poor diet, diarrhea, and liver and kidney disease.
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) — Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme produced by many body tissues, including the liver, bones, kidneys, and digestive system. Increased levels most commonly indicate liver or bone disease.
  • Alanine transferase (ALT) — ALT is an enzyme produced by liver cells, and elevated levels indicate liver damage.
  • Amylase — Amylase is an enzyme produced by the pancreas and intestinal tract to digest sugars. Increased levels can indicate pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer.
  • Bilirubin — Bilirubin is produced in the liver from old red blood cells, and is eliminated in the urine and feces. Increased values indicate liver or gallbladder disease, or that RBCs are being destroyed faster than normal. When bilirubin accumulates in the bloodstream, icterus can occur. 
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) — BUN is a waste product produced by the liver that is eliminated from the body by the kidneys. A low BUN can indicate liver disease, and an elevated BUN can indicate conditions such as kidney disease, severe dehydration, intestinal bleeding, and heart failure.
  • Calcium — Hormones regulate calcium release and uptake by bones. High blood calcium is commonly associated with cancer, and can also indicate chronic kidney failure. Low blood calcium levels can occur in pets before they give birth, causing a condition called eclampsia. 
  • Cholesterol — Cholesterol is a type of fat, and elevations indicate conditions such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.
  • Creatinine — Creatinine is a waste product that originates from muscle tissue and is eliminated by the kidneys. Increased levels indicate kidney disease.
  • Creatinine kinase — Creatinine kinase is an enzyme produced when muscles are damaged. Elevated levels indicate muscle complications, and may include the heart.
  • Glucose — Glucose is a blood sugar that is the body’s main energy source. Increased levels can indicate diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease, and stress. Low blood sugar can indicate overwhelming infection or pancreatic cancer.
  • Lipase — Lipase is an enzyme produced by the pancreas to help digest fats. Increases can indicate pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer.
  • Phosphorus — Phosphorus originates from bones and is regulated by the parathyroid hormone. Increased levels most commonly indicate acute kidney failure.
  • Potassium — Potassium is lost from the body through vomit, diarrhea, and urine. Increased blood potassium levels most commonly indicate chronic kidney disease. 
  • Sodium — Increased sodium levels most commonly indicate Addison’s disease. Dehydration can cause slightly elevated sodium levels. 
  • Total protein — Total protein includes albumin and larger proteins called globulins. Increased levels can be caused by chronic infections, leukemia, and dehydration. Decreased levels can indicate liver disease, poor nutrition, diarrhea, and malabsorption. 

Blood work is a valuable tool that provides our veterinary team with an overview of your pet’s health. These test results may indicate serious conditions in your pet that need further exploration, and can help detect conditions in the early stages, before they cause significant health problems.

If you would like to schedule a wellness screening that includes routine blood work, contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Little Animal Hospital to ensure your pet isn’t dealing with an underlying health condition.