THE IMPORTANCE OF A URINALYSIS
Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures - Nephrology & Urology
WHAT IS A URINALYSIS?
A urinalysis is a laboratory test of urine commonly referred to by medical professionals as a “UA.” The urine is evaluated for the presence of certain chemicals. A microscopic exam of the urine is also done to look for abnormalities.
A urinalysis is indicated for evaluating pets with urinary abnormalities such as increased urine production, increased urinary frequency, straining to urinate, bloody urine or abnormal color to the urine. This test can also be helpful in cases of unexplained fever, loss of appetite or weight loss. A urinalysis is often done when indicated by the results of an X-ray, results of blood tests indicating a problem with the urinary system or as a follow up to physical examination when abnormalities are detected.
Any evaluation for health or illness should include a urinalysis. Urinalysis results can give an idea of hydration and kidney function; it can also indicate inflammation or infections in the urinary tract.
There is no real contraindication to performing this test. Even normal results help determine health or exclude certain diseases.
WHAT DOES A URINALYSIS REVEAL?
A urinalysis helps to evaluate the function of the kidneys and the quality of the urine produced. A urinalysis usually consists of three parts; examining the physical sample, a dipstick analysis to evaluate the presence of certain substances and microscopic examination of the sediment. A urinalysis can evaluate for pyuria (white blood cells in the urine), hematuria (blood in the urine), crystalluria (crystals in the urine), the presence of abnormal amounts of glucose, ketones and protein, and urine concentration.
Normal urinalysis results include a specific gravity (SG) of 1.020 to 1.070. This measures the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine. In the normal patient, dipstick results for protein show negative to trace amounts, negative blood, negative glucose, negative ketones, and negative to trace amounts of bilirubin. The results of the sediment testing (microscopic evaluation) is slightly dependent upon the method of urine collection (free catch, catheterization, or cystocentesis). Essentially a few red blood cells and white blood cells can be normal.
In some cases, additional procedures such as X-rays, abdominal ultrasound, X-rays with contrast (IVP or cystogram) or even exploratory surgery are needed to diagnose a problem.
How Is a Urinalysis Done?
A urinalysis is begun with the collection of a urine sample. Urine can be obtained by three methods:
Catheterization consists of inserting a flexible plastic tube into the urethra, then up into the bladder (the reservoir inside the body where urine is stored until the pet urinates).
Cystocentesis is a very common method to obtain urine from dogs and cats. This procedure involves introducing a needle directly into the bladder through the body wall. This is a relatively painless and quick procedure. The pet can be lying or standing. The bladder is palpated (felt) and a needle is inserted into the bladder.
Free catch urine samples are obtained by catching a sample when the pet urinates. This is easy in some pets and quite difficult in others. Plastic containers, ladles, scoops and various objects can be used. The container should be as clean as possible for the most accurate of results. This method is the least “sterile” and is associated with the most lab error.
Most veterinary hospitals have the equipment to perform a urinalysis although some choose to submit samples to outside laboratories.
A urinalysis generally takes about 30 to 40 minutes to complete.
IS A URINALYSIS PAINFUL?
Whether a urinalysis is painful or not depends on the method by which urine is obtained. Catheterization is “uncomfortable” in most pets although many male pets tolerate the procedure well. Females are more difficult to catheterize due to the anatomical location of their urethra.
If urine is obtained by cystocentesis, the needle insertion through the skin can be associated with brief pain, just as any injection.
IS SEDATION OR ANESTHESIA NEEDED FOR A URINALYSIS?
Neither sedation nor anesthesia is needed in most patients; however, some pets resent positioning for a catheter placement (especially females) and may need tranquilization or ultrashort anesthesia.
THYROID TEST IN DOGS
Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures - Endocrinology & Metabolic Diseases
WHAT IS A THYROID TEST?
A thyroid test is a blood test to evaluate the function of the thyroid gland. This gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormone, an important hormone in the regulation and maintenance of body functions. A thyroid test is indicated in any ill animal. Normal animals, especially the elderly, will benefit from thyroid test results and this test is often used as a screening test for underlying illness or disease. Normal results help determine health or exclude certain diseases.
There are no real contraindications to performing this test but care should be taken if the animal has a tendency toward excessive bleeding. After obtaining the sample, extra care should be taken to make sure there is no hemorrhaging from the site where the sample was obtained.
WHAT DOES A THYROID TEST REVEAL?
A thyroid test will reveal the levels of circulating thyroid hormone in the blood. High levels of thyroid hormone indicate an overproduction by the thyroid gland, typically related to a thyroid tumor. Low levels indicate a poorly functioning thyroid gland, usually associated with immune system disorders that result in destruction of the thyroid gland by the body.
How Is a Thyroid Test Done?
In order to perform a thyroid test, your veterinarian must draw a blood sample, which is placed in a special glass tube. The blood sample is allowed to clot, and is then placed in a centrifuge, where it is divided into two parts: serum and a blood clot. The serum is removed and submitted to a laboratory for analysis. The blood clot is discarded. Some veterinary hospitals are able to perform thyroid tests in their clinic. Most veterinarians rely on outside laboratories.
If performed in the veterinary hospital, a thyroid test generally takes about 40 to 60 minutes to complete. If the sample is submitted to an outside laboratory, results may take 1 to 2 days.
IS A THYROID TEST PAINFUL?
The pain involved is associated with the collection of the blood sample. A needle is used to pierce the skin and enter a blood vessel to draw the sample. As with people, the pain experienced from a needle will vary from individual to individual.
IS SEDATION OR ANESTHESIA NEEDED FOR A THYROID TEST?
Neither sedation nor anesthesia is needed in most patients; however, some pets resent needle sticks and may need tranquilization or ultrashort anesthesia.
Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures
WHAT IS A FECAL EXAMINATION?
A fecal examination is the microscopic evaluation of feces. The test is indicated for pets with diarrhea, straining, lack of appetite or vomiting. Annual fecal examinations are recommended on all animals as part of a yearly health exam. Fecal examinations are also recommended on all puppies and kittens.
There is no contraindication to performing this test. Negative results help determine health or may exclude the presence of disease and gastrointestinal parasites.
WHAT DOES A FECAL EXAMINATION REVEAL OR DEMONSTRATE?
Fecal examinations are primarily performed to detect microscopic gastrointestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Giardia, coccidia and tapeworms. Some abnormal parasites known as spirochetes or flagellates can also be detected.
A positive test result indicates gastrointestinal parasitic disease. Negative results from one fecal sample may be misleading. Some parasites do not shed eggs consistently so some samples may be negative even though the animal actually has a parasitic infection. Repeated fecal examinations may be necessary to detect some elusive parasites.
How Is a Fecal Examination Done?
In order to perform a fecal examination, a fecal sample needs to be obtained. The easiest way to do this would be to pick up a sample of feces after the pet has eliminated. Fresh samples will give the most information.
Fecal samples can also be obtained by other means. There are special fecal loops commercially available. This long narrow wand with a loop at the end is inserted into the rectum. If feces is present, a sample will be obtained in the loop. Another method of obtaining a fecal sample is for the veterinarian to use an exam glove and place a finger in the rectum. Fecal material will adhere to the glove and can be evaluated under a microscope.
After obtaining a fecal sample, the feces is placed in a tube or commercially manufactured fecal container. Special fecal flotation fluid is then added to the tube with the feces and the combination is stirred. This is then allowed to sit for about 20 minutes. The hope is that any parasitic eggs present in the feces will float to the top of the fluid.
After 20 minutes, the top layer of fluid is placed on a microscope slide and examined under a microscope. Each parasite has a characteristic appearance that can be detected by an experienced technician or veterinarian.
The fecal examination generally takes about 30 to 40 minutes and is often performed in your veterinarian's office. Some veterinarian’s choose to submit the fecal sample to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. In these situations, tests results may take 1 to 2 days to obtain.
IS A FECAL EXAMINATION PAINFUL?
A fecal examination is not painful. If a fecal loop or digital exam is used to obtain the sample, discomfort may be involved.
IS SEDATION OR ANESTHESIA NEEDED FOR A FECAL EXAMINATION?
Sedation or anesthesia is not needed for a fecal examination.
EAR SWAB EXAMINATION IN DOGS
Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures
WHAT IS AN EAR SWAB EXAMINATION?
An ear swab examination is a test used to determine the cause of abnormal ear discharge. Bacteria and/or yeast organisms or mites are common findings with ear infections. The result of the examination can help determine drug choice. Culture and sensitivity can also be performed on an ear swab sample to determine which bacteria are causing the infection and the best choice of antibiotic treatment. An ear swab examination is indicated anytime there is ear discharge, signs of inflammation or itchiness of the ears.
There are no real contraindications to performing this test in an animal with ear inflammation, discharge or itchiness.
WHAT DOES AN EAR SWAB EXAMINATION REVEAL?
An ear swab examination reveals the presence of bacteria, fungi and parasites. Determining the underlying cause of ear discharge, pain or itchiness can help determine appropriate treatment.
How Is an Ear Swab Examination Done?
To perform an ear swab examination, a cotton tip applicator is placed within the ear canal. With a gentle movement, some discharge or debris is captured on the swab. This discharge is then smeared on a glass slide, stained and examined under a microscope. Results are usually available within 1 to 2 hours. Sometimes, the sample is submitted to an outside laboratory for evaluation. Some test results may not be available for up to 2 to 4 days.
IS AN EAR SWAB EXAMINATION PAINFUL?
Usually, obtaining an ear swab sample is not painful but can cause some discomfort. For some animals, severe ear disease may be present and placing a swab in the highly inflamed, tender canal can be quite painful.
IS SEDATION OR ANESTHESIA NEEDED FOR AN EAR SWAB EXAMINATION?
Neither sedation nor anesthesia is needed in most patients; however, sometimes ear disease is so significant that obtaining an ear swab sample can be quite painful. In these situations, tranquilization or ultra short anesthesia may be needed.
CHEST RADIOGRAPH (X-RAY)
Dr. Debra Primovic
Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures
WHAT IS A THORACIC RADIOGRAPH?
A thoracic (chest) radiograph (X-ray) is a procedure that allows your veterinarian to visualize tissues, organs and bones that lie beneath the skin of the chest cavity. Thoracic radiographs are recommended for any pet with difficultly breathing or with suspicion of heart disease or lung disease. They are also indicated in geriatric patients, and in patients that may have cancer, to evaluate for metastasis (spread). X-rays of the chest should be taken of every animal that has been hit by a car or suffered other types of major trauma because they can reveal many types of injuries to the chest wall, lungs and heart, or other injuries like diaphragmatic hernia. X-rays are also often repeated to monitor progress after treatment or after removing fluid for better visualization of structures. There is no real contraindication to performing this test. Even normal results help determine health or exclude certain diseases.
WHAT DOES A CHEST X-RAY REVEAL?
Chest X-rays provide an image of the bones and outlines of the heart and lungs. This test can be extremely useful for detecting changes in the shape, size or position of organs. Unfortunately, important structures can sometimes blend together on X-rays, so this test does have limitations. For example, a tumor may blend into the background of normal organs because they have the same "opacity," or shade of gray, as the normal tissues. Abnormal fluid accumulations can obscure the ability to see other structures. Thus, chest X-rays are an excellent "screening test," but they do not detect all internal problems. In some cases, additional procedures such as an echocardiogram (ultrasound), bronchoscopy, trans-tracheal wash or thoracocentesis may be needed to diagnose a problem.
Chest X-rays in normal pets should demonstrate healthy anatomy. This includes normal heart, lungs, blood vessels and bones. Evidence of heart enlargement, fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), fluid in the pleural cavity (pleural effusion), air in the chest cavity (pneumothorax), tumor and/or fractures are all abnormalities.
How Is a Chest X-ray Done?
Specialized, expensive equipment is required to expose and develop the X-ray film. The pet’s chest is measured with a special ruler and the exposure time of the X-ray machine is set. The pet is then placed gently on his side to obtain the “lateral” view. Invisible X-rays then pass from the tube of the radiograph machine, through the animal and onto the X-ray film underneath the pet. Depending on the density of the tissues and organs and the ability of the X-rays to pass through these tissues, different shades of gray will show up on the developed X-ray. This process is then repeated with the animal on his back to obtain the “ventrodorsal” view. Taking two views of the chest will give your veterinarian a more complete study and allow a more thorough interpretation of the chest.
The film is then developed. Radiographs usually take about 5 to 20 minutes to obtain, plus the development time needed for the film (5 to 30 minutes). In some situations, your veterinarian may request the assistance of a radiologist or specialist in evaluating and interpreting the radiographs.
IS A CHEST X-RAY PAINFUL?
No pain is involved. The procedure is noninvasive.
IS SEDATION OR ANESTHESIA NEEDED FOR A CHEST X-RAY?
UNDERSTANDING BLOOD WORK: THE BIOCHEMICAL PROFILE
Dr. Dawn Ruben
General Practice & Preventative Medicine
Blood work is a very important diagnostic tool that provides a significant amount of information about your pet’s health. A biochemical profile is a blood test that assesses the function of internal organs, measures the electrolytes such as blood potassium, and identifies the levels of circulating enzymes. Understanding the biochemical profile can be difficult but reveals a wealth of information.
Twenty of the most common tests are listed. Normal values are listed in parentheses and vary from lab to lab and those listed should not be considered universal.
BUN (blood urea nitrogen)........24 mg/dl...(8-29)
Sodium (Na)......................140 mEq/l...(139-164)
Potassium (K)....................5.2 mEq/l...(4.4-6.1)
CO2 (carbon dioxide).............22 mEq/l...(22-285)
Total Protein (TP)...............6.3 gm/dl...(5.8-8.1)
ALKP (alkaline phosphatase)......65 U/l...(20-70)
AST (asparate aminotransferase)..30 U/l...(14-42)
ALT (alanine aminotransferase)...45 U/l...(15-52)
GGT (gamma-glutamyl transferase).5 U/l...(1-12)
CK (creatine kinase).............47 U/l...(0-130)
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Glucose is the end product of carbohydrate metabolism and is the primary source of energy for the body. High levels indicate stress, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, pancreatitis or can be due to certain medications. Low levels can indicate liver disease, insulin overdose, severe bacterial infection, hypothyroidism and Addison’s disease. Toy breed puppies are prone to low blood glucose for unknown reasons.
BUN stands for blood urea nitrogen and is the primary end product of protein metabolism. High levels indicate kidney failure or disease, dehydration, shock, high protein diet, certain toxin ingestions, poor circulation to the kidneys and urinary obstruction. Low levels indicate liver disease or starvation.
Creatinine is the end product of phosphocreatine metabolism, which is important in muscle contractions. High levels indicate kidney failure or disease, dehydration, shock, certain toxin ingestions, poor circulation to the kidneys and urinary obstruction. Low levels indicate liver disease or starvation.
Sodium works in combination with potassium and is very important in maintaining normal function of muscle and nerves. It is also an important electrolyte in every part of the body. High levels indicate dehydration, lack of water, diabetes insipidus, Cushing’s and excess salt intake. Low levels indicate starvation, severe diarrhea, vomiting, Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism and metabolic acidosis.
Potassium works in combination with sodium and is very important in maintaining normal function of muscle and nerves. High levels indicate diabetes, certain toxin ingestions, urinary obstruction, acute kidney failure, severe muscle damage and Addison’s disease. Low levels indicate vomiting and diarrhea, gastrointestinal cancer, insulin overdose, Cushing’s disease, overuse of diuretics and starvation.
Chloride is important in maintaining the acid balance in the blood as well as combining with hydrogen to form hydrochloric acid for stomach digestion. High levels indicate dehydration, metabolic acidosis, Addison’s disease and kidney disease. Low levels indicate vomiting and metabolic alkalosis.
CO2 indicates the current acid balance of the body and is the end product of metabolism. High levels indicate an acidic condition and can be due to kidney failure, vomiting, dehydration or overuse of diuretics. Low levels indicate a basic condition of the blood and can be due to starvation, kidney failure (can also cause acidosis), diarrhea and poor liver function.
Calcium is a mineral found throughout the body. It is the basis for bones, teeth and muscle contractions. High levels indicate certain forms of cancer, Addison’s disease, excess intake of vitamin D and an overactive parathyroid gland. Low levels indicate eclampsia, severe pancreatitis, dietary imbalance, intestinal absorption disorders, low intact of vitamin D, Cushing’s disease and certain toxin ingestions.
Phosphorus is often associated with calcium. It is important in all aspects of metabolism. High levels indicate kidney disease, dietary imbalance, excess ingestion of vitamin D and severe tissue trauma. Low levels indicate dietary imbalance, certain cancers, overdose of insulin, diabetes, eclampsia and an overactive parathyroid gland.
Total Protein (TP) is an important substance in all parts of the body. High levels indicate dehydration, inflammation, chronic infection and certain cancers. Low levels indicate intestinal absorption problems, liver disease, Addison’s disease, severe burns and losses through the kidneys.
Albumin is the major protein found in the body. It carries various substances through the blood and is important in maintaining pressure within the vessels. High levels indicate dehydration. Low levels indicate chronic inflammation, liver disease, kidney disease, starvation and blood loss.
Bilirubin is a bile pigment and is the end product of red blood cell breakdown. High levels typically result in jaundice and can be due to bile duct obstruction, gall bladder obstruction, liver disease and rapid breakdown of red blood cells. Low levels are not considered clinically relevant.
Cholesterol is important in the synthesis of certain hormones. High levels are not as important as in people. Low levels indicate liver disease, starvation, kidney disease, Cushing’s, pancreatitis, diabetes and hypothyroidism.
Triglyceride is important in storing fat and releasing fatty acids. High levels have been associated with seizures in schnauzers. Low levels indicate starvation or malnutrition.
ALKP is important in metabolism and is found in liver cells. High levels indicate bile duct obstruction, Cushing’s, liver disease, certain cancers and may be due to certain drugs such as steroids or phenobarbital. Low levels indicate starvation or malnutrition.
AST is important in the breakdown and elimination of nitrogen. High levels indicate muscle damage, heart muscle damage, liver damage, toxin ingestion, inflammation and various metabolic disorders. Low levels indicate starvation or malnutrition.
ALT is also important in the metabolism of nitrogen and is most often associated with the liver. High levels indicate liver damage, toxin ingestion, Cushing’s disease and various metabolic disorders. Low levels indicate starvation or malnutrition.
GGT is also important in nitrogen metabolism and is found within liver cells. High levels indicate bile duct obstruction, liver disease, pancreatitis, Cushing’s and can be caused by high levels of steroids. Low levels indicate starvation and malnutrition.
Amylase is secreted by the pancreas and is important in normal digestion of starch. High levels indicate pancreatic inflammation or cancer, kidney disease, prostatic inflammation, diabetic ketoacidosis and liver cancer. Low levels can indicate malnutrition or starvation.
CK is very important in storing energy needed for muscle contractions. High levels indicate muscle trauma or damage such as due to seizures, surgery, bruises, inflammation, nutritional and degenerative diseases. Low levels are not clinically relevant.
ABDOMINAL RADIOGRAPH (X-RAY)
Dr. Debra Primovic
Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures
WHAT IS AN ABDOMINAL RADIOGRAPH (X-RAY)?
An abdominal radiograph (X-ray) is a procedure that allows your veterinarian to visualize tissue, organs and bones that lie beneath the skin. Abdominal X-rays are indicated to evaluate pets with abdominal symptoms such as vomiting, retching, constipation or diarrhea. This test can also be helpful in cases of unexplained fever, abdominal trauma, penetrating abdominal wounds, loss of appetite or weight loss. An X-ray is often done when a pet is suspected of swallowing foreign material, when blood tests indicate a problem with abdominal organs, or as a follow up to physical examination when abdominal pain or another abnormality is detected. Detecting stage of pregnancy and number of fetuses is another important use of the X-ray. Kidney, urinary bladder and reproductive tract problems can also benefit from an abdominal X-ray. There is no real contraindication to performing this test. Even normal results help determine health or exclude certain diseases.
WHAT DOES AN ABDOMINAL X-RAY REVEAL OR DEMONSTRATE?
Abdominal X-rays provide an image of the bones and the outlines of a number of internal organs including the liver, stomach, intestines, kidneys, bladder, uterus and prostate gland. This test can be extremely useful for detecting changes in the shape, size or position of organs. Unfortunately, important structures can sometimes blend together on X-rays, so this test does have limitations. For example, a tumor may blend into the background of normal organs because they have the same "opacity," or shade of gray as the normal tissues. Some foreign objects (such as some plastics) can be invisible on the X-ray. Thus, abdominal X-rays are an excellent "screening test," but they do not detect all internal problems. In some cases, additional procedures such as ultrasound, endoscopy (scoping), contrast (barium) or dye study or even exploratory surgery are needed to diagnose an intra-abdominal problem.
How Is an Abdominal X-ray Done?
Specialized, expensive equipment is required to expose and develop the X-ray film. The pet’s abdomen is measured with a special ruler and the exposure time of the X-ray machine is set. The pet is then placed gently on his side to obtain the “lateral” view. Invisible X-rays then pass from the tube of the radiograph machine, through the animal and onto the X-ray film underneath the pet. Depending on the density of the tissues and organs and the ability of the X-rays to pass through these tissues, different shades of gray will show up on the developed X-ray. This process is then repeated with the animal on his back to obtain the “ventrodorsal” view. Taking two views of the abdomen will give your veterinarian a more complete study and allow a more thorough interpretation of the abdomen.
The film is then developed. Radiographs usually take about 5 to 20 minutes to obtain, plus the development time needed for the film (5 to 30 minutes). Special studies (such as a barium study) take much longer. In some situations, your veterinarian may request the assistance of a radiologist or specialist in evaluating and interpreting the radiographs.
IS AN ABDOMINAL X-RAY PAINFUL?
No pain is involved. The procedure is noninvasive.
IS SEDATION OR ANESTHESIA NEEDED FOR AN ABDOMINAL X-RAY?
Neither sedation nor anesthesia is needed in most patients; however, some pets resent positioning for an X-ray and may need tranquilization or ultrashort anesthesia. In a few states there is a legal requirement for sedation so that personnel are not exposed to any X-rays while holding an animal patient. However, in most cases, the unsedated pet is attended by assistants who wear appropriate lead-shields to minimize their exposure to X-rays
UNDERSTANDING BLOOD WORK: THE COMPLETE BLOOD COUNT (CBC)
Dr. Dawn Ruben
General Practice & Preventative Medicine
Blood work is a very important diagnostic tool that provides a significant amount of information about your pet’s health. A complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test used to measure and evaluate cells that circulate in the blood. The test includes an actual counting of red and white blood cells as well as an analysis of cells viewed on a blood smear. A CBC may be useful as a screening test for underlying infection, anemia and illness.
Sometimes, the CBC can help determine the underlying cause of an anemia or infection. Drugs that affect the bone marrow change the CBC. Certain types of cancers, especially leukemia, may be evident on a blood smear. Blood parasites and some microorganisms are found by careful inspection of the blood cells during the CBC. In some cases, the results of the CBC will prompt your veterinarian to recommend other diagnostic tests.
The following is an example of a complete blood count report. Normal values often vary from lab to lab and are represented in parentheses. These norms should not be considered universal.
WBC..... 10.6 x 10-3/mcl.........(4-12 x 10-3/mcl)
RBC....... 6.2 x 10-6/mcl........(5.7-10.5 x 10-6/mcl)
HGB........ 14 g/dl............(9-16 g/dl)
MCV....... 55.9 fl............(40-60 fl)
MCH....... 18.2 pg............(15-20 pg)
MCHC...... 33.5 g/dl..........(32-36 g/dl)
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
· WBC is an abbreviation for white blood cell count. These cells help fight infection and respond when an area of the body becomes inflamed. Elevated white blood cell counts indicate infection, inflammation and some forms of cancer or leukemia. Low white blood cells counts can indicate viral infections, bone marrow abnormalities or overwhelming infections and sepsis (blood poisoning). In this situation, the white blood cells are concentrated in the area of infection and are not circulating in the blood, resulting in a low count.
· RBC is an abbreviation for red blood cell count. These cells are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen is used as fuel for the body and is very important. High red blood cell numbers usually indicate dehydration but can also indicate uncommon diseases that cause an excess production of red blood cells from the bone marrow. Low red blood cell counts are referred to as anemia and can be a result of blood loss, active bleeding, bone marrow disease or excessive red blood cell breakdown that is seen in some immune diseases and toxin ingestion.
· HGB is an abbreviation for hemoglobin. This molecule is responsible for binding and releasing oxygen onto the red blood cells. Without hemoglobin, oxygen cannot be transported. High levels of hemoglobin usually indicate high red blood cell counts and dehydration. Low levels indicate anemia, bleeding or iron deficiency.
· HCT is an abbreviation for hematocrit. The hematocrit is a calculated percentage of red blood cells in the circulation. It gives similar information to the red blood cell count but the value is expressed as a percentage. The other part of the blood is serum, containing enzymes, proteins, electrolytes, etc. High hematocrits indicate dehydration or rare bone marrow disorders resulting in increased red blood cell production. Low hematocrits indicate anemia, bone marrow disorders, blood loss, active bleeding or excessive red blood destruction due to toxins or immune disorders.
· MCV is an abbreviation for mean corpuscular volume. This is the average size of the red blood cells. A high MCV usually indicated certain vitamin deficiencies. A low MCV indicated iron deficiency.
· MCH is an abbreviation for mean corpuscular hemoglobin. This is the average weight of hemoglobin in each red blood cell and is different than hemoglobin circulating in the blood. A high MCH indicates poorly oxygenated blood. A low MCH indicates iron deficiency.
· MCHC is an abbreviation for mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration. This is the average percentage of hemoglobin in each red blood cell. A high MCHC indicates that there is too much hemoglobin in the red blood cell, indicating a high iron level since an important component of hemoglobin is iron. Iron excess is just as damaging to the body as iron deficiency. A low MCHC indicates anemia.
· PLT is an abbreviation for platelets. The platelets are responsible for sealing any leaks in the blood vessels. When platelet counts are low, spontaneous bleeding can occur. High platelet counts usually indicate a disorder of the bone marrow or an overwhelming response to an immune blood disease. Low platelet counts indicate bleeding or excessive destruction of platelets caused by parasites or immune diseases.
A differential is an analysis of the different types of white blood cells. There are five types of white blood cells and the distribution of these cells can help determine an underlying cause of illness.
· Segs is an abbreviation for segmental neutrophils. These are the primary white blood cells responsible for fighting infections. High levels of neutrophils indicate infection. Low levels can indicate sepsis. The neutrophils are concentrated in the area of infection or are rapidly being used, leaving less circulating in the blood.
· Lymphs is an abbreviation for lymphocytes. These white blood cells are also responsible for fighting infection and also develop antibodies to protect the body against future attacks. High levels of lymphocytes can indicate infection, viral disease or certain cancers such as lymphosarcoma. Low levels can indicate viral infections affecting the bone marrow or sepsis.
· Mono is an abbreviation for monocytes. This white blood cell helps the neutrophils fight infections. High monocyte counts indicate infection. It is unlikely that there will be no monocytes and a differential with zero monocytes does not indicate any specific ailment.
· Eos is an abbreviation for eosinophil. This white blood cell is primarily involved in fighting allergies or parasites. High eosinophil counts indicate an allergy or parasite causing illness. Low levels are not possible since zero eosinophils are possible in normal blood samples.· Baso is an abbreviation for basophils. This white blood cell is not very common but can be seen in certain parasitic infection, primarily heartworm. High levels indicate possible parasitism. Low levels are not possible since zero basophils are possible in normal blood samples.
The complete blood count provides a wealth of information – if you know how to read and interpret the results. For further explanation or interpretation of your pet’s CBC, consult your veterinarian.