Blood testing is an incredibly useful method of gaining more information about the health of a pet. Our vets will often run blood tests when an animal is unwell to help find out the cause of their illness in order to treat them effectively. However, there are situations when it might be advisable to run blood tests, even if your pet does not seem unwell.
We all know the old adage ‘if only they could talk’. Unfortunately, as our pets cannot speak to us, it can be difficult or impossible for both owners and vets to pick up on the subtle early signs of some illnesses, which often cause no noticeable changes in a pet at home and may not even be detected by a vet physically checking over an animal. Many chronic (long term) diseases can be ‘subclinical’ for months to years, meaning they do not cause any signs of ill health. If we are able to detect disease at an early stage, there is often more that we can do to slow down how fast that disease progresses, and in some situations even prevent an animal becoming unwell at all. Blood tests are a quick and non-invasive way of being able to find out more.
What is included in the Goddard Veterinary Group Wellness Blood Screen?
- Haematology: This part of the blood screen counts different cell types in the blood. Many diseases can cause levels of red or white blood cells to be high or low. For example, a low red blood cell count (anaemia) can be caused by a variety of conditions. The haematology can give more information than just numbers of a type of cell – the average size of the red blood cells can provide more about the possible causes of anaemia, for instance.
- CHEM 10 blood biochemistry: This measures ten different values. These include blood protein and sugar levels, which can indicate if a pet is diabetic, for example. ALP and ALT are liver values which can be high in primary conditions affecting the liver but can also be high for a variety of endocrine (hormonal) disorders, such as Cushing’s disease, an over or underactive thyroid, or other diseases in the abdomen, which can have secondary effects on the liver. Urea and creatinine are also checked to screen for kidney disease.
- SDMA: This is a new biomarker of kidney disease and is something we are able to include as part of the health screen. The other kidney values of urea and creatinine are only increased when 75% (three-quarters) of kidney function has been lost, whereas SDMA increases when just 40% of kidney function has been lost. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a very common problem in elderly animals, particularly cats, and this test means we can pick up reduced kidney function at a much earlier stage. Whilst kidney disease will progress with time, if detected early there are many measures our vets can recommend being instituted to slow this down, such as changes in diet or medication.
- Thyroid hormone level (Total T4 or TT4) for cats over 8 years old: hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) is a common problem in geriatric cats. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and produces thyroid hormone. An overproduction of this can cause many changes such as weight loss, increases in thirst and appetite, and changes in behaviour and coat condition. It can also lead to heart disease and increased blood pressure if left untreated, meaning it is best to pick up the disease at as early a stage as possible. The condition is easily manageable and there are many options for treatment.
We recommend you discuss with our vets whether or not your pet would benefit from a screening blood test. Examples of when we might recommend blood tests would be for animals that are more senior in age, on long-term medication that has potential to affect organ function, or for an animal that has unexpectedly lost weight.
There are limitations to blood tests, and it should be noted that not all health problems can be detected with these tests. In some instances, if abnormalities are flagged up on the screening blood test, our vets may recommend further tests, such as tests on urine if kidney disease is suspected, to gain more information.
But if you want to know what’s going on inside your four-footed friend, to pick up problems before they become disasters, give us a ring!