When handed a slip detailing your pet’s latest blood work results, you probably stare at the letters and numbers in confusion, trying to decipher the gibberish. Don’t worry—we won’t leave you hanging trying to understand your furry pal’s blood work. Read on to learn what those abbreviations mean for your pet’s health.

CBC: What does that tell me about my pet’s health?

A complete blood count (CBC) is exactly that—a quantitative analysis of your pet’s blood cells. Divided into red and white blood cells, and platelets, a CBC imparts important information about the types and levels of your pet’s various blood cells. For example:

  • Red blood cells — If your pet has a reduced number of red blood cells, they may have anemia, whereas an increased number can indicate dehydration.
  • White blood cells —The white blood cell group is further broken down into the different white blood cell types, and abnormal results may mean your pet has a bacterial or viral infection, inflammation, allergies, or a parasitic infection.
  • Platelets —When looking at your pet’s platelet numbers, we can determine if they have clotting issues, or if they may be suffering from a bleeding disorder, which is important to know before performing surgery.

Blood chemistry panel: What does a panel tell me about my pet’s health?

A blood chemistry panel essentially evaluates your pet’s organ function and internal health. Quantifying electrolytes and enzymes allows us to determine if your four-legged friend is suffering from organ dysfunction, or developing a disease process. Each blood chemistry panel component is a small piece of the overall puzzle to evaluating your pet’s health. 

Blood sample chemicals: What do they all mean?

In general, certain enzymes are linked to specific organs, and other components of your pet’s blood indicate a specific disease process. Some of the most common chemicals measured in a blood sample include:

  • Albumin (ALB) — A serum protein, albumin evaluates hydration status, hemorrhage, and intestinal, liver, and kidney disease.
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) — Elevations in ALP may indicate liver damage, Cushing’s disease, or active bone growth in a young pet.
  • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) — An increased ALT level may indicate active liver damage, but provides no cause. 
  • Amylase (AMYL) — An elevated AMYL level can indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.  
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) — An increased AST may mean liver, heart, or muscle damage in your pet.
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) — This test is half of the pair of tests commonly used to determine kidney function. An increased level can mean your pet has kidney disease, but can also indicate liver and heart disease, urethral obstruction, shock, or dehydration. 
  • Calcium (Ca) — A change in calcium level can indicate a variety of diseases, so we need to see other abnormalities in your pet’s blood work to help identify the cause. Tumors, kidney disease, and hyperparathyroidism can change your pet’s serum calcium level. 
  • Cholesterol (CHOL) — A pet with high cholesterol may also have hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, or diabetes.
  • Chloride (Cl) — Chloride is an electrolyte that is typically lost with excessive vomiting, while an elevated level can indicate dehydration. 

  • Creatinine (CRE) — CRE, which is the second half, with BUN, of the kidney function testing pair, also evaluates how well the kidneys are working, and helps to differentiate between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN.
  • Globulin (GLOB) — A blood protein, GLOB often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states.
  • Glucose (GLU) — Also known as blood sugar, an elevated glucose level can help diagnose diabetes in your pet. A low glucose level can lead to collapse, seizures, or a coma.  
  • Potassium (K) — Potassium is an electrolyte that is lost through vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination. An increased K level in your pet may mean they have kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration, or a urethral obstruction. A potassium level that becomes too high can lead to cardiac arrest.
  • Lipase (LIP) — Somewhat similar to amylase, lipase is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis.
  • Sodium (Na) — Another electrolyte, sodium is lost through vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease, and Addison’s disease. 
  • Phosphorus (PHOS) — An elevated phosphorus level may mean your pet has kidney issues, hyperthyroidism, or a bleeding disorder. 
  • Total bilirubin (TBIL) — An elevated TBIL may indicate liver or hemolytic disease, and is often seen with bile duct issues and anemia. 
  • Total protein (TP) — The total protein found in your pet’s blood helps analyze their hydration status, and when paired with other test results, provides information about the liver, kidneys and infectious diseases.
  • Thyroxine (T4) — Thyroxine is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs, whereas in cats, hyperthyroidism, or increased T4 level, is more likely to develop.

While this list seems extensive, a great many more tests can be performed on your pet’s blood sample to accurately diagnose disease, monitor therapeutic drug levels, and assess your pet’s health. 

In addition to a thorough physical exam, blood work is a necessary part of monitoring your pet’s health. See which blood tests will provide the best internal view into your furry pal’s health status by scheduling an appointment with our Mt. Horeb Animal Hospital team.