Behind the Scenes - Blood testing in dogs and cats
Did you know that most veterinary hospitals can perform in house blood tests? I recommend pre-anaesthetic blood tests prior to all anaesthetic procedures. Pre-anaesthetic blood tests assess your pets liver and kidney function, check for diabetes and looks at red and white cell counts. This allows us to tailor our anaesthetics to your pets individual needs. It can also help us to uncover some potentially life threatening conditions that cannot be identified during physical examination alone.
There are different reasons your vet may have recommended a blood test - here are the most common:
Pre-anaesthetic blood testing
This is recommended prior to any general anaesthetic or heavy sedation. The reason it is recommended is as an added safety precaution. You veterinarian cannot get an indication of how well your pet's organs are functioning based on physical examination alone. Did you know that it takes 75% of the kidney to be destroyed before your cat is going to develop clinical signs? That means you cat's kidneys could be having trouble without you or your cat knowing it.
Senior health check or wellness blood testing
This is all about catching problems in the earlier stages of disease and being able to monitor for the onset of a disease. As our pets are living longer it is increasingly common to see liver and kidney problems as they age. Early intervention can make a big difference to your pets longevity.
Blood testing to diagnose an illness or medical condition
Sometimes the only way were are going to diagnose a condition is through specific blood testing.
Blood testing to monitor a condition
Some conditions require ongoing monitoring to ensure that the appropriate medications are being used at the appropriate doses. Conditions that require ongoing monitoring include diabetes, hyperadrenocorticism, hyperthyroidism, epilepsy, kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, hypothyroidism, arthritis (if using long term anti-inflammatories) and the list goes on!
How do we collect blood from your pet?
The most common place that we collect blood from your pet is from their jugular vein. The reason that we collect blood from the jugular vein is not that us vets are secrete vampires but in fact because the blood flow is greater from the jugular vein which means your pet has to stay still for a shorter time and ideally we want to preserve your pet's other veins which may be needed for intravenous catheterisation (e.g. placement of an IV drip).
Now some vets can collect blood without clipping the hair, but as a general rule most vets will clip the area with clippers which unfortunately some pets hate. We then swab the area with methylated spirits before we collect the blood sample. We ask our nurses/vet techs to restrain your pets because we need them held in a particular way so that we can visualise the vein.
Most pets find the restraint worse than taking the blood sample. Sometimes we need to employ distraction techniques to obtain the samples - this might involve head tapping (where another nurse pats them on the head during the sample collection), sometimes we might blow air on their noses as it calms them down (or makes them wonder what we had for lunch), occasionally we will scratch them in other spots so that they don't notice the needle going in, some small dogs and cats will need to become kebabs to have blood taken (becoming a kebab involves being wrapped in a towel) and very occasionally we will need to sedate or anaesthetise them to obtain a blood sample (or they may just get a blood sample from us!)
Has your pet had a blood test?
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