BLOOD TESTS ARE SO VITAL
Vets are often challenged by the fact that their patients are unable to talk about their symptoms. However, after performing a thorough clinical exam — including listening to the heart, feeling the abdomen and joints, and taking a history of signs from the owner — I can normally work out what the patient’s likely problem is.
In most cases, the next step is running some blood tests. It’s clear to me, when I discuss these with pet owners, that a lot of people don’t know what the blood tests are looking for or what they can do.
Blood tests obviously rely on us taking a sample of blood from your pet — this is normally about 2-3ml, except in very young or small animals where the sample size can be much smaller.
The samples are then run through an automated process that makes several small chemical reactions to measure the levels of different indicators.
The red and white cells are then counted and examined.
Some veterinarians will run these tests in-house while others will have an external laboratory run the tests. We then get a printout of a long list of markers or level of chemicals in the blood. For each species we compare these results against what is considered normal range — like human blood tests. Depending on the test results — whether the readings are low, high or normal — we can find out different information. For instance, there are two markers (urea and creatinine) that wellfunctioning kidneys keep in a set range. Kidneys that are dehydrated or kidneys that are not working well can lead to both kidney markers becoming elevated. So, if I see this on some blood tests I know we need to look at hydration and kidney function
We also run blood tests to check on the progression of disease. For instance, my dog Trae has epilepsy and is on a long-term medication to help control seizures. He also needs regular blood tests to check that she is getting enough of the medication and to make sure they are not causing any side effects that would require a dose change.
Finally, I tell clients that the bloods tests can be limited — there are a lot of things we can’t test for. The blood tests also only give us a snapshot or what is happening and may need to be re-run every couple of days. Dr Reeve is a member of the Australian Veterinary Association