We’ve previously discussed the importance of annual veterinary examinations and Wellness testing in dogs and cats (see our previous blog posts). In this article we want to offer a greater explanation of exactly which tests are performed and what they tell us. Wellness Testing involves a Complete Blood Count (CBC), Blood Biochemistry Profile, Thyroid Test, Heartworm Test and Fecal Parasite examination. Wellness Tests are packaged together to give greater value and affordability to our clients. These tests give you the peace of mind knowing your pet is going to be a healthy member of your family for years to come.
We’ve discussed the Complete Blood Count in the last article, today we’ll get into more detail with the Blood Biochemistry Profile and how our veterinarians use it at our veterinary clinic.
Blood Biochemistry Profile
Blood Biochemistry results measure how a dog or cat’s body and organs are functioning on the inside. It helps us confirm that values are normal and healthy in your dog or cat. When tissues are damaged the they release specific enzymes which our veterinary laboratory equipment detects as abnormal levels. This then helps localize the problem and allows your veterinarian to form a treatment plan.
Our animal hospital examines many different values when looking at the Biochemistry panel. We’ll give a brief explanation of each below.
BUN or Blood Urea Nitrogen
Urea is an end product of protein breakdow and is removed from the blood by the kidneys. When a cat or dog has kidney disease they can’t eliminate Urea effectively. Elevated levels can give our veterinarians an early indication of kidney disease and dehydration. Decreased levels can be seen in some liver conditions.
Creatinine is a body waste product that originates from muscles and removed from the body by the kidneys. An increased creatinine level is caused by kidney disease or dehydration. Increases in Creatinine and BUN in the blood at the same time often indicates kidney disease in the dog and cat.
If Phosphorous values are increased along with BUN and Creatinine it is typically indicative of a kidney problem in the dog and cat. There are many other disease that can involve abnormally high or abnormally low levels.
Blood glucose (commonly known as Blood Sugar) levels are influenced by diet, liver function and how much energy your pet is burning. High glucose levels can be caused by Diabetes Mellitus. Low glucose may be caused by pancreatic cancer, Adrenal disease or severe exertion.
Total protein includes albumin and larger proteins called globulins. Included in the globulins are antibodies which are protein molecules. Total protein can be increased if your dog or cat is dehydrated or if their immune system is being stimulated to produce large amounts of antibody. Total protein is decreased in the same situations which reduce albumin or if the pet has an abnormal immune system and cannot produce antibodies.
Bilirubin is formed as product of the normal break down and removal of red blood cells from the body. It is typically removed from the body by the liver via the gallbladder. Increased levels can indicate liver disease, or a serious disease know as Auto-Immune Hemolytic Anemia- a disease where the body destroys it’s own Red Blood Cells.
ALT (Alanine Transferase):
This enzyme is present in the liver cells of dogs and cats. Damage to liver cells such as in liver disease leads to the enzyme being released into the blood stream where we can detect its increase. This value is a good indicator of liver problems both primary (infection, toxins, cancer etc.) or secondary (lack of blood flow to the liver)
ALKP (Alkaline Phosphatase):
Alkaline Phosphatase is produced in by cells in both the liver and bone. Elevated levels suggests problems in these areas. At our animal hospital we do see increased levels in some growing dogs and cats. This can be a normal occurence.
Amylase and Lipase:
These enzymes are produced in the pancreas and gut. High levels can occur with pancreatitis , obstruction of the bowel and other severe bowel disease.
Calcium in the bloodstream originates from the bones. The body has hormones, which cause bone to release calcium into the blood and to remove calcium from the blood and place it back into bone. Abnormally high calcium in the blood occurs much more commonly than low calcium. High blood calcium is most commonly associated with cancer. Less common causes of elevated calcium are chronic kidney failure, primary hyperparathyroidism which is over-function of the parathyroid gland, poisoning with certain types of rodent bait and bone disease.
Low blood calcium may occur in dogs and cats just before giving birth or while they are nursing their young. This is called eclampsia and occurs more commonly in small breed dogs. Eclampsia causes the animal to have rigid muscles which is called tetany. Another cause of low blood calcium is malfunction of the parathyroid glands which produce a hormone (PTH) that controls blood calcium levels.
Cholesterol is a form of fat. Cholesterol can be increased in the bloodstream for many reasons in dogs. It is much less common for cats to have increased cholesterol. Some of the diseases that cause elevated cholesterol are Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, diabetes and kidney diseases that cause protein to be lost in the urine. High cholesterol does not predispose dogs and cats to heart and cardiovascular disease as it does in people.
Low levels are consistent with a disease called Hypothyroidism and can result in hair coat changes, weight gain along with many other signs. We almost exclusively see this disease in dogs. High levels occur in Hyperthyroidism- a potentially fatal condition usually seen in old cats.