Blood testing in dogs and cats

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.

Blood tests in dogs and cats


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).


Vampire vets


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!)


Blood taking


Has your pet had a blood test?


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6 Responses

  1. Excellent info as always Belinda! And you make a good vampire, lol 🙂

  2. Our guys get blood test routinely 2x annually. We do CBC and blood chemistry. Once a year we do HW, thyroid; every once in a while tick-borne diseases. And then, of course, before anesthesia if routine blood test older than a month, and when the guys are sick etc.

    • They are in excellent hands in your family! It’s so important to do routine blood work. It sounds like you have a very similar routine to me (with the exception of tick borne diseases – fortunately don’t see much of that in Sydney, but we do get paralysis ticks which are not fun at all!)

  3. Great article. I feel terrible about a vet trip I had with my dog Laika, she now has to get sedated.. She jerked really hard when she got a shot in her leg and the vet tech ended up getting poked.

    With sedation of course it’s no problem at all. Are dogs that need to be sedated common? I feel like I’m a pet failure because of this but I’m sure others go through the same ordeal.

    I didn’t suspect anyone at my local vets office of being a vampire but now I won’t be able to avoid that thought.

    • Hi Jen,
      You are not a pet failure at all! I’ll let you in on a little secret – vets and nurses pets are the worst behaved of the lot. I used to have to sedate one of my dogs just to trim her nails! Having to sedate pets to get blood is not uncommon. Whilst most of the time we can manage to get a sample from them when they are conscious sometimes it becomes too stressful for them and us to do so, that’s when we decide to sedate them. I’m always amazed at how well most pets cope with us taking blood. After all they don’t understand what’s happening and then surprise they get stuck with a needle.
      Thanks for dropping by. Sorry it took me a couple of days to get back to you. I was off visiting family in Tasmania
      Sending big pats Laika’s way

  4. […] is best to run a full blood profile rather than just checking the glucose alone.  This assists us with detecting any other illnesses […]

  5. Tremendous content Belinda. Good vampires do exist. 😀 I’ll bring my cat to vet vamps next time.

  6. […] always recommend a pre-anaesthetic blood test prior to a dental procedure (which is what I have always done for my boy Jack – even when he […]

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