Routine Lab Work
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Routine Lab Work
I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that even though I am a veterinarian, I really don't like needles. Now I administer a great injection but the thought of me getting a shot or having my blood drawn gives me the willies. Nonetheless, I am a brave patient during my yearly wellness exam and submit willingly to my nurses' instructions to stretch out my arm. It really doesn't hurt. It's just the anticipation of that needle prick. Now, thankfully I'm very healthy. So why do I put myself through this angst? Because I want to stay that way.
Maintaining your pet's health at its most favorable level is a team effort. You know your pet better than anyone else. It is your responsibility to monitor changes that you see at home - changes in appetite, attitude, bowel patterns, and the like and bring these changes to your veterinarian's attention. It is your veterinarians charge to look at, listen to and feel your pet.
Pets age at a much faster rate than people. It is important to remember that getting older is not a disease but a process. It is during this process, that organs start to weaken, the immune system can malfunction and infirmity can set in without obvious outward signs. How can you detect that a problem may be brewing under your pet's fur? Routine blood, urine and fecal examinations are one of the best methods available.
So what do these routine tests tell a veterinarian?
A CBC is a complete blood cell count. It reveals the cellular components of the blood. Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout our bodies. A deficiency is called anemia.
The white blood cells, also known as leukocytes, have several functions such as fighting infection, and responding to inflammation. Too many leukocytes without an infection being present is called leukemia, a cancer of the blood.
Platelets, another blood component, are responsible for the proper clotting of our blood.
The chemistry portion of the blood panel gives your veterinarian information regarding the health of the internal organs, such as the liver and the kidneys. Blood sugar, glucose, if elevated can be an indication of diabetes mellitus. A sudden decrease in blood sugar can signify malnutrition or a myriad of other diseases.
Inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatitis can be due to dietary indiscretion and would be suggested by a rise in the digestive enzymes amylase and lipase.
Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and chloride allow cells to function properly. Disruption of their normal balance can indicate kidney or other types of hormonal disorders.
A senior blood panel will often include a thyroid hormone test. Dogs with an underactive thyroid gland may have an oily, patchy hair coat, an increase in weight, or a tragic facial expression. Mature cats are often plagued with an overactive thyroid condition known as hyperthyroidism. These cats may present with an increased thirst, excessive urination, and frequently vomiting and diarrhea.
Urine tests can be used to monitor the functional ability of the kidneys. They can also be used to confirm the presence of bladder or kidney infections as well as diabetes mellitus.
Collecting a stool sample is not the most savory of activities but this material is commonly used to evaluate the presence of internal parasites. Many of the organisms found in a pet's stool can be transmitted to people, making them ill. This is known as a zoonotic disease. Don't be fooled into thinking that your pet is parasite free just because the stool looks normal. Internal parasite eggs are not visible to the naked eye.
So the next time your veterinarian recommends sending samples to the lab, tell your pup or puss to be brave because the information gained from these tests can help save its life.
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