Bloodwork for your cat: why it’s important and what it means
Regular and routine blood testing is an important part of your cat’s preventive healthcare.
Most vets recommend annual testing for cats seven years and older, and, depending on a cat’s health history, annual or bi-annual testing for senior cats over the age of eleven. It’s also a good practice to at least get a baseline for a younger cat. It is critically important that every cat, regardless of her age, has complete bloodwork done before undergoing any kind of anesthetic procedure, even a routine dental cleaning.
Typically, your vet will run a blood chemistry panel and a complete bloodcount. For cats age seven and up, she will also run a thyroid function test.
Blood Chemistry Panel
A blood chemistry panel screens organ function for several organs. The makeup of a chemistry panel may vary slightly depending on which laboratory runs the tests. Some of the most common parameters screened in a chemistry panel are kidney function (BUN and creatinine) and liver function (Albumin, ALT, Bilirubin and Amylase). The panel also measures glucose, calcium, cholesterol, potassium, and total protein. Click here for a complete list of parameters and detailed explanations.
Complete Blood Count
The complete blood count measures the number of cells of different types circulating in the bloodstream. There are three major types of blood cells in circulation; red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells (WBC), and platelets. White blood cells include neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils.
Thyroid Function Test
The thyroid test evaluates the function of the thyroid gland. Typically, veterinary clinics will run a T4. However, if there is suspicion of thyroid disease, or if the T4 test comes back elevated, a more comprehensive feline thyroid panel, which includes T4, T3, free T4 by equilibrium dialysis and TSH, will need to be run.
Interpreting Bloodwork Results
Unless your veterinary clinic has an in house labarotory, your vet will send blood samples off to an outside lab for testing. Test results are usually available within 24 hours.
Interpreting results is both a science and an art. Laboratories establish “normal” reference ranges, but “normal” is relative. And the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The vet needs to look at the whole picture, not just the lab results. For example, elevated BUN and creatinine levels don’t necessarily mean that there’s a kidney problem. It could simply mean that the cat was midly dehydrated in the period prior to when the blood was drawn. Additional testing, such as a urinalysis, may be needed to allow the vet to make an accurate diagnosis.
Cats can’t tell us how they feel, so regular bloodwork is one of the best ways to identify potential health problems even before your cat shows any symptoms.