How to Read & Understand Bloods
I quite often direct people to get bloods taken with their dogs, even if there is nothing currently wrong/presenting with their dog. A blood test will give you a clear idea of what is going on underneath the bonnet, and although it is a snapshot in time of what is happening, it can also be used as a baseline to quickly identify any deterioration in condition or show evidence of improvement. It is a key tool in proactive heatlh care for your dog. However, it is important for you to know what the bloods mean, as the Vet may explain any thing of concern, however often as levels are within boundaries, they may not. The following should give you some insight into what is happening:
Red Blood Cells (RBC) - Responsible for carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body. Iron deficiency will lower RBC count. In more reduced count, it may indicate haemorrhage, parasites, bone marrow disease, B-12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency or copper deficiency. RBC lives for 120 days so an anaemia of any kind other than haemorrhage indicates a long standing problem.
Hematocrit (HCT) or Packed Cell Volume (PCV) - Provides information on the amount of red blood cells (RBC) present in the blood. Decreased levels means anaemia from haemorrhage, parasites, nutritional deficiencies or chronic disease process, such as liver disease, cancer, etc. Increased levels are often seen in dehydration.
Hemoglobin (Hb) - The essential oxygen carrier of the blood. Decreased levels indicate the presence of haemorrhage, anaemia, iron deficiency. Increased levels indicate higher than normal concentrate of RBC, B-12 deficiency (because there are fewer cells).
Reticulocytes - Immature red blood cells. Decreased count is usually associate with anaemia. Increased count is associated with chronic haemorrhage or hemolytic anaemia.
Platelets (PLT) - Play an important role in blood clotting. Decrease in number occurs in bone marrow depression, autoimmune hemolytic anaemia, systemic lupus, severe haemorrhage or intravascular coagulation. Increased number may occurs with fracture or blood vessel injury, or cancer.
MCV - Measurement of the average size of the RBC. Elevated volumes can be due to B-12 folic acid deficiency and reduced volumes are from an iron deficiency.
White blood cells (WBC) - The body's primary means of fighting infection. Decreased levels may indicate an overwhelming infections (viruses), or drug / chemical poisoning. Increased levels indicate bacterial infection, emotional upsets and blood disorders.
Lymphocytes (L/M) - These smooth, round white blood cells increase in number with chronic infection, recovery from acute infection or underactive glands and decrease with stress, or treatment with steroids and chemotherapy drug.
Calcium (CA) - Blood calcium levels are influenced by diet, hormone levels and blood protein levels. Decreased levels indicate acute damage to the pancreas or underactive parathyroid. Muscle twitches may occur in decreased level. Increased levels can be an indicator of certain types of tumours, parthyroid or kidney disease. Dr. Goldstein mentioned in his book, Nature of Animal Healing that low calcium level may indicate deficiency of pancreatic enzymes, and high calcium level may indicate poor metabolism of fats and protein.
Phosphorus (PHOS) - Affected by diet, parathormone and kidney. Decreased levels shows overactive parathyroid gland and malignancies, malnutrition and malabsorption. Increases with underactive parathyroid gland and kidney failure.
Electrolytes (Sodium, Potassium, Chloride) - The balance of these chemicals is vital to health. Abnormal levels can be life threatening. Electrolyte tests are important in evaluating vomiting, diarrhea and cardiac symptoms.
Cholesterol (CHOL) - Decreased levels are found in an overactive thyroid gland, intestinal malabsorption. Elevated levels of cholesterol are seen in a variety of disorders including hypothyroidism and diseases of the liver, kidneys, cardiovascular, diabetes, stress.
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) - An enzyme that becomes elevated with liver disease.
Alkaline Phosphatase (ALKP) - An enzyme produced by the biliary tract (liver). High levels indicate bone disease, liver disease or bile flow blockage.
Total Billirubin (TBIL) - A component of bile, bilirubin is secreted by the liver into the intestinal tract. High levels can lead to jaundice and indicate destruction in the liver and bile duct.
Total Protein (TP) - Increases indicate dehydration or blood cancer, bone marrow cancer; decreases indicate malnutrition, poor digestion, liver or kidney disease, bleeding or burns.
Globulins (GLOB) - Decreased levels indicate problems with antibodies, immunodeficiency viruses or risk of infectious disease. Increased levels may indicate stress, dehydration or blood cancer, allergies, liver disease, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes.
Albumin (ALB) - Produced by the liver, reduced levels of this protein can point to chronic liver or kidney disease, or parasitic infections such as hookworm. High levels indicate dehydration and loss of protein.
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) - BUN is produced by the liver and excreted by the kidneys. Decreased levels are seen with low protein diets, liver insufficiency, and the use of anabolic steroid drug. Increased levels indicate any condition that reduces the kidney's ability to filter body fluids in the body or interferes with protein breakdown.
Creatinine (CREA) - Creatinine is a by-product of muscle metabolism and is excreted by the kidneys. Elevated levels can indicate kidney disease or urinary obstruction, muscle disease, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes. An increased BUN and normal creatinine suggest an early or mild problem. An increased creatinine and increased BUN with elevated phosphorus indicate a long standing kidney disease.
Blood Glucose (GLU) - High levels can help diagnose diabetes and can indicate stress, excess of the hormone progesterone, an overactive adrenal gland. Low levels can indicate liver disease, tumours or abnormal growth on pancreas, an underactive adrenal gland.
Amylase (AMYL) - The pancreas produces and secrets amylase to aid in digestion. Elevated blood levels can indicate pancreatic and/or kidney disease.