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Making sense of canine medicine....

What does "Full Blood Work" mean?

January 4th 2011 8:42 am
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"Full Bloodwork" for most vets includes a Chemistry Panel and CBC. Often, depending on age, vets will also include a thyroid check and urinalysis. Some labratories (I am only really aware of US labs) have "wellness panels" that lump several different tests together at a discounted rate to offer to clients. IE Antech (a us vet lab) has a Senior Dog Panel which includes Chem, CBC, T4 and UA. There are others that may lump in a HWT, T3 or limited chem. Limited chems are an easy, cheap alternative for younger, healthy dogs to get bloodlevels checked when healthy to track later (or before easy anesthetic procedures).
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What do these tests mean?

First you need to understand the parts of our blood. Blood is broken down pretty much into 2 parts, serum and RBC's. Testing of certain things requires different types of blood. We almost never test just the RBC's alone but we do require whole blood for some testing and serum for other testing.

Whole blood is everything. After the sample is taken from a patient it is placed in a tube containing an anti-coagulant (IE something that prevents it from clotting - EDTA is the most common). This helps keep all individual cells seperate so that counts/tabulations can be made about what types of cells are present in a patient.

Chemistry Panels require the serum. Serum is what is left over after the red blood cells are spun down. IE anything that is NOT red. Serum is normally straw colored and clear. However in some cases it can be lipemic (cloudy + pink/redish) which usually means there are extra lipids (fats) in the blood. This is common in older animals, animals suffering from liver disease, overweight patients etc. In some cases it can also be hemolyzed (clear + red/pink) which can be the result of a mechanical degradation of the RBC's (IE damage due to the actual blooddraw or placement of blood into tubes-this is a common occurance especially if patient is not cooperative or too small a needle is used or too much pressure is applied when placed into tubes) OR a chemical degradation (in cases where the body system is attacking the RBC's -IMHA for example- the serum is often hemolyzed). In cases where the serum is icteric (clear + dark yellow) we know that hyperbilirubinemia is present. Increased bilirubin can be indicative of diseases that cause hemolysis or of liver involvement and when it leaks into the serum it causes the dark yellow appearance. It can also cause the mucous membranes of a patient to appear yellow as well (IE gums, whites of eyes, inside ears).

The serum is also responsible for most other endocrine tests including Thyroid, cushings, addisons, diabetes etc.
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OK now for the individual tests.

A chemistry panel looks at all the markers that tell us how well the patients organs are functioning. This includes kidney function, liver function, protiens, lipids, some electrolytes etc.

Common levels you may be familiar with that are included in the chemistry are:
BUN/Creatinine - Kidney's
Blood Glucose - Pancrease
ALP/ALT - Liver

For an indepth look into what each number and what they mean check this out. Remember that not all Chemistry Panels include everything listed on this link. There are full and partial chemistries depending on the lab and doctor request. Understanding the Chemistry Panel

A CBC measures and evaluates the individual cells circulating in the blood. It measures White Blood Cells which can be indicative of infection. Red Blood Cells which can give us information about anemia or regeneration of blood. Platelets which are important for clotting. It can also show signs of parasitic infections as Eosinophils rise when parasites are present in a patient.

This article explains more precisely what each different level in a CBC means --> Understanding the CBC.

Hope this helps clearly explain what we mean when we say "full blood work"


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Leah, CGC


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