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Understanding Cat and Dog Blood Tests, X-Rays, and Urinalysis

Vet Talks 4 min read
Cat's checkup

Blood work and laboratory tests are often requested by your veterinarian. Blood work can be used in healthy pets, pets that will undergo anesthesia, and in sick pets. The tests are performed to provide objective information about the general health of the furkiddo. The results of each test can be helpful in monitoring ill patients as well as reaching a proper diagnosis. The interpretation of multiple tests, combined with careful study of the symptoms, allows the proper assessment and diagnosis of health conditions. Keep reading to learn about how useful cat and dog blood tests can be!

Types Of Cat and Dog Blood Tests

Some of the most common tests include blood chemistry, complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, X-ray, and ultrasound (US) exams. The full interpretation of the exams, associated with the examination of the pet, will depend on the veterinarian, but here is some information for you to better understand the types of exams as well.

Blood Chemistry

It is routinely asked to assess specific organ enzymes that will tell the veterinarian (and you) if the organs are functioning properly. Here are some of the enzymes analyzed on the chemistry and what they mean. Just remember that not all their meanings will be fully addressed in this blog, but some of the most common ones are:

Kidney Health

BUN (blood urea nitrogen) — Higher values may be seen with decreased kidney function, dehydration, and heart disease. Lower values may also be seen with overhydration.

CREA (creatinine) — Higher values may be seen with decreased kidney function and other conditions as noted with BUN. Lower values may be seen with overhydration.

PHOS (phosphorus) — Elevations of this enzyme are seen with decreased kidney function through conditions like kidney disease, increased intake through the gastrointestinal tract, and increased release from injured tissues. In growing puppies and kittens these increases can be normal and a decrease of this enzyme may be seen with increased loss or decreased intake.

Ca+ (calcium) — An increase of this enzyme may indicate a variety of diseases including kidney disease, certain cancers, toxicities, and parathyroid disease. Decreases may be seen with certain parathyroid diseases and with low albumin.

Liver Health

ALT (alanine aminotransferase) — Higher values are a sensitive indicator of liver cell damage.

ALKP (alkaline phosphatase) — Higher values may indicate a liver abnormality (cholestasis), Cushing’s disease, active bone growth in young pets, active bone remodeling after bone injury.

GGT (gamma-glutamyl transferase) — Higher values may indicate a certain type of liver abnormality (cholestasis).

ALB (albumin) — Higher values may indicate dehydration while lower values may be seen with decreased liver function, blood loss, gastrointestinal or kidney disease.


Na+ (sodium) — Higher values may indicate dehydration. Lower values may be seen with loss from diarrhea and vomiting or, with Addison’s and kidney disease.

K+ (potassium) — Higher values may indicate kidney disease due to decreased excretion, Addison’s disease, dehydration, and even kidney obstruction. Lower values may be seen with loss from diarrhea or vomiting.

Other types of chemistry blood tests can monitor pancreas activity, protein profile, glucose, cholesterol levels, cortisol levels, thyroid levels, among others. Your veterinarian can assess your pet’s condition and judge if any and/or all tests are necessary.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

This type of blood test is by far the most common one since it directly assesses anemia and infection through the blood count.

RBC (red blood cell count), HCT (hematocrit), and HGB (hemoglobin) — Higher values may indicate dehydration or disease of increased production of RBCs. Lower values can indicate anemia and decreased oxygen-carrying capability of the blood.

MCV (mean cell volume) — Higher values indicate the presence of larger than normal cells, which may be related to young cells during a response to anemia. Lower values indicate the presence of smaller than normal cells, which may be associated with chronic blood loss/iron deficiency.

MCH (mean cell hemoglobin), MCHC (mean cell hemoglobin concentration), RDW (red cell distribution width, RETIC (reticulocytes) — Are other measure parameters addressed on the CBC and will be interpreted by your veterinarian.

White Blood Cell (WBC)

WBC (white blood cells) — Higher values may indicate inflammation, stress, excitement, or leukemia. Lower values may indicate overwhelming inflammation and bone marrow failure.

Leukocyte Differential — Various patterns of change in numbers of NEU (neutrophils), LYM (lymphocytes), MONO (monocytes), EOS (eosinophils), and BASO (basophils) may be seen with different types of inflammation, stress, excitement, or leukemia, among other conditions that can be found through veterinary blood tests.

Platelet (PLT) and PCT (platelet crit) — Higher values of overall platelet mass are potentially associated with a hypercoagulable state. Lower values may be seen with decreased production in the bone marrow (failure), and destruction in the blood (infectious, immune-mediated, etc.).

MPV (mean platelet volume), PDW (platelet distribution width) — Are other parameters that can be analyzed by your veterinarian.

Other Important Tests

A urinalysis is performed on a urine sample and can provide important insight into kidney function and hydration.  It can address whether the acid-base status of the furkiddo is well-hydrated, as well as determine protein levels, glucose, ketose, presence of blood in the urine, and creatinine ratio.

Ultrasound and X-rays can also be requested by your veterinarian. Imaging diagnostics can be really useful to assess the image of the organs, calculate their sizes, check for obstructions, and may be helpful in reaching a diagnosis.

Remember that these are only just some of the exams your veterinarian can request. Depending on the condition of your little one, more specific tests may be required.

It can be really interesting to learn how to read exams and have some knowledge of what each acronym means. However, if you are not fully trained in reading blood work and exams, we don’t suggest jumping to the most severe and devastating conclusion, especially if you’re using the internet.

Your veterinarian is the best person to get your dog and cat blood test results explained by and can suggest the best plan for treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian what each of the exams means, how the organs are functioning, and if there are any other exams that can be done.

If you ever need help with your furbaby, you can count on the NHV team to help you. Click below to start chatting with us!

Dr. Rebeca Oliveira DVM

Dr. Rebeca Oliveira DVM

Dr. Rebeca is a holistic veterinarian from Brazil with a passion for natural and integrative medicine. She’s been studying integrative medicine and alternative (and healthier) diets since 2015, and now started to study the power of herbs with the NHV Family. In her spare time, you can find her spending time with her golden retriever, Kuga.

Published: January 29, 2022

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