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When any lab­work is done on your horse, his re­sults will be com­pared to a “nor­mal” range. “The gen­eral process to fig­ure out the ‘nor­mal’ range for most of those tests is to gather as large a num­ber of healthy horses as you can and run blood­work on all of them,” says Kather­ine Wil­son, DVM, DACVIM, of the Vir­ginia– Mary­land Re­gional Col­lege of Ve­teri­nary Medicine. “Usu­ally about 95 per­cent of those horses would fall within a cer­tain range.” But that also means that some healthy horses will be out­side the norm. “About 5 per­cent of horses that are to­tally nor­mal might be ei­ther a lit­tle higher or lower,” Wil­son says.

When eval­u­at­ing your horse’s blood re­sults, your vet­eri­nar­ian will take this pos­si­bil­ity into con­sid­er­a­tion. “If just one thing is slightly ab­nor­mal on one of the blood tests, and it doesn’t fit with any­thing else on the blood­work or with what else the horse is do­ing, we usu­ally don’t worry about that one,” says Wil­son.

But this is also why it’s a good idea to have some rou­tine blood­work done an­nu­ally—to record your horse’s nor­mal val­ues. Then, your vet­eri­nar­ian will be bet­ter equipped to no­tice sig­nif­i­cant changes when he’s ill. “Some­times it’s not nec­es­sar­ily that the blood value was ab­nor­mal; it may be just in­creas­ing from the last time we saw it,” Wil­son says. “This might still be within the nor­mal range, but it could be a big in­crease for that horse if he has al­ways been lower.”

At Wood­side Equine Clinic in Ash­land, Vir­ginia, says Clau­dia True, DVM, “we of­fer well­ness packages for our clients—they get phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions, vac­cines, den­tal checks and fe­cal egg counts, and they can add a CBC and a blood chem­istry. With th­ese we would be look­ing for un­der­ly­ing ab­nor­mal­i­ties such as liver and kid­ney is­sues.” But some of the re­sults they have seen were sur­pris­ing:

“It was in­ter­est­ing to see the bell curve on th­ese blood tests, across the board,” True says. “We had a cou­ple of horses with re­ally low white counts. If those were sick horses and you found that num­ber, you’d as­sume the horse had a vi­ral in­fec­tion or over­whelm­ing bac­te­rial in­fec­tion. One of the counts was so low that I was very con­cerned and talked to our in­ter­nal medicine spe­cial­ist about it. I went back a cou­ple weeks later and checked again, and the white count was still fairly low. Ap­par­ently this is nor­mal for that horse, even though it was way down on the bell curve for all the horses.”

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