What is bloodwork? Bloodwork describes the analysis of blood to assess the function of various organs and processes in the body. We use it to test for diseases, we use it to diagnose some conditions, and it can be used to monitor ongoing conditions as well. The term bloodwork covers a broad spectrum of uses and analysis of information. Preventative bloodwork is a way of monitoring your pet’s body functions to catch diseases early enough to treat. Many pets are very good at hiding pain and disease. It can be difficult to know if your pet is sick until it is very ill. There are also many different choices when doing preventative bloodwork. When deciding which panels or tests are best for your pet, your veterinarian considers many parts of your pet’s life and current conditions or medications.
Animals are a lot better at hiding pain and illnesses than people are. Many times our pets don’t tell us they are not feeling right until it has progressed to physical signs. Not only can they not verbalize that they feel sick, but instinct tells them not to show how much they hurt. Checking on them can detect and prevent some disease from progressing any further or as quickly. Some disease processes are also slow enough that the body can compromise for an amount of time until the disease is too severe and the body suddenly cannot keep up. In these cases, preventative bloodwork may have helped to indicate that something was going on the body. Next time you have your pet in for a check-up consider doing preventative bloodwork to assess your pet’s body function. It will create a baseline for future assessments.
Once our pets start getting older, their yearly check-ups and veterinary visits become more crucial to their health and life longevity. We keep an eye on their body functions, joints, organs and how age is affecting them. One way we can keep an eye on organ health and catch the disease early is by doing preventative bloodwork. It should be part of your geriatric pet’s annual physical. We can do panels in house or send them out to the lab and they tell us how the “quiet” parts of our pet’s body are working. They test various enzymes, check blood cell counts and some other things as well. We can catch things like infection, inflammation and some enzymes tell us if organs are not functioning as well as they used to. Depending on the changes we see in the body, we can sometimes do more specific tests to tell us the causes or severity of the disease. Catching illness or diseases early help us extend your pets life and keep them more comfortable as their age progresses.
Just as bloodwork can be used to detect the onset of diseases or conditions, it can also be used to monitor how our pet’s body is responding to the treatments and medications that your veterinarian has prescribed. Not every animal is the same, and so for many conditions, types of medications and dosing sometimes need to be adjusted and tested again to find what works best. Some examples of disease that require bloodwork to prevent worsening conditions are diabetes, hypo/hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, kidney and liver disease. There are many other diseases that require bloodwork to monitor, but these are a few common ones. Many of these diseases are also more commonly seen in older patients and can be diagnosed before symptoms show if preventative bloodwork is performed.
Preventative bloodwork is used to assess your pet’s body functions before putting them under anesthesia. Putting our pets (and people too!) under anesthetic has many risks. Even though it is done often with no side effects, some pets may have pre-existing conditions that can put them at a higher anesthetic risk. Our vets do the best they can to assess your pets physically, but blood tells us different information than an examination does. Presurgical bloodwork panels check on the basics and allow us to change protocols based on enzyme levels, blood cell counts and electrolytes. The more insight your veterinarian has on your pet’s organ function the better they can assess your pets anesthetic risk (or lack of) before putting them under.
Written by: Bailey Nadeau, RVT