Dog Lab Work/Laboratory - How Lab Work Can Determine Your Dog's Health

Why might my dog need blood work?

Your dog may need blood work for various reasons. One obvious reason would be if they're sick and they come in and need lab work to find out what's wrong with them. Another reason might be if the dog is going to have surgery and we might want to check out to make sure they're healthy before a procedure.

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

Why are laboratory tests so important for my dog?

Well, our dogs can't really talk to us, so by performing the lab work, we can oftentimes detect things that we may not know are going on with your pet.

What different types of lab work can be done, and how are these tests done?

There are many different types of lab work. Some of the routine lab work would be things like a urine check. We are checking for concentration of the urine. We're checking for infection that could be going on.

Blood work is a lab test, and that might be looking at the organ values, or it might be looking at the complete blood counts (CBCs).

We also might do a heartworm test on your pet. That's one thing that we recommend yearly, so that's a different type of lab work. And we talked about the fecal exam—we recommend those twice a year.

We might also be testing a lump or bump to see if it's anything concerning, and whether that needs to come off surgically, or if it's okay/benign and you can monitor.

We offer many of these in-house, but we can send them out for more specific tests or maybe more specialized tests. We have the option of both. The benefit of doing a lot of our tests in-house is that we get the results immediately. And so if you have a sick dog, you don't want to wait 24-48 hours for a test to return. And then if it's a test that is more for wellness, we can send that out and maybe get more value for your money by sending it out to the lab.

What do the chemistries mean in my dog's lab work?

When we run a chemistry panel here, we also give a printout of that and it lists out the different values. In general, I tend to talk about big categories. So we're looking at the blood sugar of your dog. We're looking at their kidneys. There are a few different kidney values. We're looking at liver enzymes. We also may be looking at protein and electrolytes. Those are of some of the big categories and on those printouts on the back, they have the interpretation of a lot of those letters and abbreviations that you might not be familiar with.

How do baseline lab tests benefit the health of my dog?

That's a great question, and we recommend wellness lab screens yearly on pets, so some might look at that as a baseline. Some clients might think, "Well, my dog's not sick. Why do I need to do blood work?" We know that a pet normally runs a certain number on specific values when we have a baseline. Then all of a sudden, when we get a value that might not necessarily be abnormal, but maybe way higher or way lower than what that pet's normal was, the baseline comes into play. It helps us to determine what might be wrong with your pet.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of dog illnesses using lab work so important?

If we catch and treat diseases early, the prognosis is usually better, so that's the bottom line.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Dog Lab Work/Laboratory - FAQs 1

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

What can blood tests help a veterinarian detect?

It depends on the type of blood test that we're running. A complete blood count, for instance, would perhaps detect anemia, which is a low red cell count, or it might detect infection, which would be a high white cell count.

Chemistry would be another example, and for that we would look at the organ values. There are many different blood tests that we can do to look at a pet's hormones and look for diseases that a pet might be carrying. So there's a variety of blood tests.

There are certain lab tests that we may recommend across the board for any dog, and then there are certain lab or blood tests that we would recommend depending on your dog's risk or what's going on with your pet. If your dog is sick or the area you live in may determine the type of lab work that we run.

How do veterinarians decide which tests you need to order for my dog?

This is a very general question, but if your dog was coming in for a well-check, we would routinely do a yearly heartworm test, which is a blood test. If they're coming in sick, we may want to look internally at what's going on with them to determine what might be causing that. If they're vomiting, we can look at a blood test to look for pancreatitis. There are many tests that we can do to determine what might be going on.

How long does it take to get test results back?

It depends on the test, and it depends on where we run the tests. We offer a lot of in-house or in-clinic lab tests so that we would get those results immediately. Some might take 30, 45 minutes, but they are essentially immediate. And then, if we send those out, some have a 24 to 48-hour turnaround, and some might have a two-week turnaround. So, it depends on the test.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Dog Lab Work/Laboratory - FAQs 2

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

How is blood drawn from my dog?

The simple answer is from the vein. That might include the cephalic vein. We may draw from a leg or the neck—from the jugular vein—those would be the most common areas.

Is the sample collection painful for my dog?

I usually tell my clients that it's a needle poke, so it's like getting a vaccine. We often scratch their ears, we pet them, and we might feed them cheese—something to distract them, and most pets don't tell me that they find it very painful.

How is the safety of my dog ensured when getting lab work done?

At the Animal Hospital of Statesville, we are big on fear-free approaches because we know that stress and fear can cause problems. If a pet is struggling, that's not good for them, nor is it good for our staff. Sometimes we use bribery to get things done. We also may use distraction and, if needed, we may use calming medications.

How soon will I receive my dog's test results?

If we do them in the clinic, those tests would be the same day while you're still at your visit. And then, if there are some that we send out, it may be a day or two—that would be a typical turnaround for most routine lab work.

Does my senior dog really need lab work?

I would say even more so when they're seniors. We know that pets age much quicker than we do and not that age is a disease, but things tend to happen more commonly as we age. We recommend certain lab work for all patients, no matter the age, but we suggest what seniors are more at risk for when they come to see us.

Will my dog need more than one type of lab work?

They sure could. It depends on what we're looking for and whether the dog is here for a wellness visit versus here for being sick. And often, the question would be, does my pet need to be poked more than once to draw the blood? We can often draw one sample and run many tests off of that, which might alleviate many of the owner's concerns about running multiple tests. We need to run most of our tests with minimal volume compared to their total body volume. So they're not donating blood to us for that type of thing, as it's not a large amount of it. And then, we can run several different tests if we deem that necessary, but we'll take it step by step and, depending on what the first lab test shows, that may give us an answer, or we may need to run other tests.

Will follow-up lab work need to be done on my dog?

If we find something that's abnormal, we will want to follow up with that. These lab tests are one moment in time, and so it might be a very short-term elevation or abnormality. And so we want to know in two weeks, or four weeks, what's going on with that value. Did it go back to normal, and we don't need to worry about it, or is it going up further, and we need to investigate the underlying cause? If we're treating something, we want to follow up—that would be another reason to see if that's working and what we need to do from there.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.