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How to Interpret your Pet's Lab Work

labworkAre you confused when your vet calls you to report blood work results, or when you are at home and you read a long list of letters and numbers that make little sense?

Doctors use blood work in order to diagnose illness, to monitor progress, or many times just to assess your pet's general health during their annual physical exam, or as health screening before an anesthetic procedure. Evaluating a baseline of blood work is often times the very first diagnostic tool your veterinarian will employ in the process of making a diagnosis.

Blood work can be very complex and can target specific conditions, but at the initial illness screening, or for a routine wellness check, your doctor will most likely check a complete blood count, and major internal organ values, or chemistries.

Here is a simple description of what some of these numbers mean:

The CBC (complete blood count) counts the various types of cells that constitute your pet's blood. A CBC gives information on hydration status, anemia, infection, the body's ability to form clots, the ability of the immune system to respond, and others.

o HCT (hematocrit) also at times reported as PCV (packed cell volume) measures the percentage of red blood cells in the blood. It is used to detect anemia and dehydration.

o Hb and MCHC (hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration) are the oxygen-carrying elements of red blood cells. Low counts usually are associated with anemia.

o WBC (white blood cell count) measures the body's immune cells. Increases or decreases indicate certain diseases or infections. High numbers often indicate bacterial infections, or inflammation in the body.             The WBC consists of GRANS (granulocytes or neutrophils), EOS (eosinophils), Lymphocytes and Monocytes which are types of white blood cells with specific functions.

o PLT (platelet count) is a type of cell involved in forming blood clots. Low numbers indicate inability to clot.

Blood chemistries

Common blood serum tests evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels, and more. Some of the most common values checked are:

o ALB (albumin) Is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage, and intestinal, liver, and kidney disease.

o ALKP (alkaline phosphatase) and ALT (alanine aminotransferase) are liver enzymes. Elevations may indicate liver damage, Cushing's disease, and active bone growth in young pets (ALKP only). .

o AMYL (amylase) and LIP (lipase) and cPl elevations are markers of pancreatitis.

o BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and CRE (creatinine) are used to evaluate kidney function. Increased blood levels usually indicate kidney disease. but can also be cause by urethral obstruction, shock, and dehydration.

o GLU (glucose) Is a blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures, or coma.

o T4 (thyroxine) is a thyroid hormone. Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs, while high levels Indicate hyperthyroidism in cats.

At Westgate Pet Clinic we also check Heartworm/Lyme test yearly in all dogs, and a urinalysis in all senior cats.

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Westgate Pet Clinic
4345 France Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55410
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