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Dog Lab Work - The Importance of Laboratory Testing For Your Dog

The biggest thing for me regarding lab work is we have to remember that dogs and cats age a lot faster than we do. For every year that we age, their bodies are aging seven. That's a long time. Here at Four Paws, we recommend annual lab work. It's really important. This one workup checks a multitude of things, such as their red blood cell count, white blood cell count, and platelets.

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws At Fulshear

Red blood cells are important because if we don't have any, then we know we're anemic, and we know we need to dig into that and find out why. If white blood cell counts are either lowered or elevated, we know there's an infection, inflammation, or something happening in the bone marrow where they're not making white blood cells. Platelets are important because they help us clot. So if we don't have enough of them, we can start bleeding internally or not be able to clot, so that's super important for bleeding functions and trying not to bleed because bleeding is not good.

We are also going to be testing liver and kidney values, pancreas values, cholesterol, triglycerides, electrolytes, thyroid, and urinalysis. There are a lot of things that our lab testing includes, and this gives us a snapshot of how your pet is doing internally. I can take a six-year-old lab that looks happy, but I get the lab work back, and maybe their liver values are elevated. My job is to tell people why. We have a healthy dog with these changes. Why are they there? It helps us catch diseases before they're symptomatic, which means they're easier to treat. It's better to catch diseases early. These are some of the things that we test for in our animals.

I might get the question: Why do we need lab work every year? What is that going to tell us if it was normal last year? I'm going to say that a lot can change in a year, and a lot can change in a month. There are some cases where we'll have an annual exam, and we'll do annual lab work, and then a month later, I'll have a pet come in that's sick. In such cases, I'm grateful that we had baseline labs from a month ago or a year ago so that I know what their normals were. When we do these lab works, we know what their yearly normals are so that when things change, it helps us better make a diagnosis and form a targeted treatment plan. Every time I see a patient, I definitely recommend lab work yearly. At a minimum, any patient over the age of five should get yearly lab work done without hesitation, even if it's just a mini panel of those chemistries to check in and see their liver and kidney values. I can't tell you how many times we've caught things on these preventative blood panels that, if we hadn't caught them, we wouldn't know until the pet was super sick, and maybe they wouldn't make it. So these lab panels make a huge difference.

Other diagnostic tests include a urinalysis when you're looking for UTIs. We can see bladder stones, urinary crystals, and we can see white blood cells. Sometimes we can see cancer cells in urinalysis. There are a lot of benefits to be gained with these diagnostic testing that we're doing. We'll even do ear discharge analysis in the clinic. If your dog has an ear infection and he's shaking and flopping in his head, and his ears are red, or they smell, my nurses or techs will get swabs of the ears and put them on a microscope slide to be read. We look at microscope slides under high definition and high magnification to look for bacteria. What kind of bacteria? What about yeast or different types of fungal disease? What about ear mites? So we're looking for these things. A blood smear can also be done to look at the red blood cells looking for blood-borne parasites or even snake bites. The venom changes the membrane or the outside of the red blood cells. Red blood cells normally have a very round, smooth outside. When you've been bitten by a snake and the red blood cells come into contact with that venom, they get visibly spiky.

A lot of these things that maybe don't seem like a big deal actually tell us a whole lot. For a skin infection, we're going to do skin cytology, meaning we will take an impression smear on the skin, look under the microscope, stain it, and look. I've caught cancer this way, along with fungal infections and bacterial infections, and sometimes we can even see mange, which is a type of skin mite. There's a lot that we can do and find out from these diagnostic testing that may not seem that important, but they actually are. Patients that have chronic ear infections because they're dealing with some allergies get ear swabs every time because what if the infection changes? What if I just throw medications around, and it's not the same infection as last time? Then we've wasted an appointment and meds. However, when we'd done an ear discharge analysis, I would have known exactly what we were treating. That's why those kinds of tests are so important.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (281) 801-1444, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

Dog Lab Work - FAQs

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws At Fulshear

How does my veterinarian decide which lab test to order for my dog?

We decide what labs may be needed for certain patients based on age, physical exam, and if they're having any symptoms. For instance, if I have an overweight middle-aged lab that we're having trouble getting some weight off, I'm probably going to have a blood test that includes a thyroid test. Our thyroid has a lot to do with our metabolism, and unfortunately, labs commonly get hypothyroidism or low thyroid, and that can have an effect on their metabolism. It's really going to be based on what I find in my exam. On the other hand, cats go the absolute opposite direction as they get hyperthyroid so their metabolism ramps up, and then all of a sudden, these cats are eating everything in sight and dropping weight like crazy. So if I have an older cat that's doing that, we're also going to check their thyroid and I'll be surprised if we don't see an elevated thyroid. It's based on the physical exam and on talking with the owners about what the symptoms or the clinical signs are, but we tailor each individual lab profile according to what is appropriate for that patient.

How long does it take to get the results from the lab test?

It's a great question. It depends on what panel we run. If we're running a mini young wellness panel, I typically have results back in one to three days. If we're running a bigger panel that includes your full thyroid panel that can take up to four to five days, so it's a little bit variable. Most labs will be back within the same week that you pull it, unless it's on a Friday in which it'll come back the next week.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (281) 801-1444, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

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