I decided to create this series of articles to address the top questions I’ve been asked as a veterinary technician. I’m a CVDT (Certified Veterinary Dental Technician), have been in the field for over ten years and have noticed a trend in the most commonly asked questions by pet owners. The answers found in these articles will reflect how things have been done in my experience only; keep in mind that all veterinarians and veterinary hospitals have varying policies and techniques.
We’ll discuss some of the commonly asked questions about laboratory tests in pets. Sometimes pet owners will question the importance of these tests when performed prior to a procedure that requires an anesthetic such as routine surgeries, dentals, x-rays and more.
What tests are going to be run and what do they show?
When we’re talking about pre-anesthetic blood testing, typically a chemistry panel and a CBC, or complete blood count, will be the minimum tests to run. A chemistry panel will check a number of values that relate to the fluid portion of the blood. These results will give the veterinarian an idea as to whether or not certain organs or body systems are working appropriately. He or she can determine the health status of the liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, the immune system and more.
A CBC, or complete blood count, deals with the cells of the blood. This test will determine the number, health status and the types of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and others that are circulating in the bloodstream. Because the CBC has the capability of showing conditions such as infections, anemia, inflammation and more, the veterinarian can learn much from this test.
Why does my pet need lab testing before surgery?
This is the perfect time for running lab tests! While anesthesia is very safe, when correctly used, it still has its risks. The results of pre-anesthetic blood work can alert the veterinarian to any potential problems that your pet may experience while anesthetized. Many times, anesthesia isn’t postponed or cancelled but is altered. There are a variety of different drugs and methods for inducing anesthesia providing the veterinarian with an alternative should a particular patient need it.
Does my pet need to be tested even if he’s not sick?
It is the recommendation of many pet hospitals to run annual lab tests on pets during their annual visit. As pets get older this is particularly important. Pets age more quickly than we do, so problems can develop sooner than what you might think. Having lab tests done can help find any underlying conditions that may cause problems that are too difficult to treat later on. Catching problems early, while still treatable, can potentially save a pet’s life.
If my pet is already sick, what benefit is there to running lab tests?
Even if your vet knows why your pet is sick, lab tests can show how much the body is truly affected. They can show if additional organs and body systems are affected, as well. However, there are many causes for most symptoms in a sick pet. Just because a dog is vomiting, for example, doesn’t always mean it’s because he got into the trash and has an upset stomach. There are a number of causes for sicknesses in pets; lab tests can help determine that cause and most importantly lead the veterinarian in the direction for the appropriate treatment plan.
My pet is pretty young and is healthy. Should I have tests run on her anyway?
It’s never a bad idea to have a baseline run on a pet. It may seem excessive at the time, but these results can provide great insight in the future, should your pet become ill. Typically, the lab tests that are ran prior to a spay or neuter are adequate enough to refer back to down the road. However, if your pet is already spayed or neutered and didn’t have labs done or has never had surgery before, you may want to talk to your vet about having baseline labs run.
Blood work, urinalysis, and other tests are all important parts of a good pet health care plan. Sometimes the costs can seem daunting but given the information, it can be well worth it. Having the results, knowing an appropriate treatment plan or giving the veterinarian a better idea for anesthetic protocol can be the difference in life and death in many cases. Ask about lab tests the next time your pet is due for an exam or surgery.