Is bloodwork just something we recommend to make more money? I have heard that many times and read it on the internet. The most insulting incident was when a car dealer was explaining options on a vehicle and said to me, “it’s kind of like telling your client we need some bloodwork.” In his mind, a relatively useless add-on that raises the price of a car was the equivalent to running bloodwork on a patient. I think the reason it was so insulting was because bloodwork is only recommended when needed and while it does increase cost, it also adds significant value.
When we, as humans, go to the doctor and they recommend bloodwork, we typically don’t bat an eye. We don’t question them because we know they think there is a reason for it, and we often even become obsessed with waiting for the results. Obviously, most of us aren’t as concerned because insurance will cover it in most cases. So cost to the client plays a major role in the decision to allow or decline the bloodwork to be performed on a pet. However, this doesn’t make it any less important.
Bloodwork typically consists of a CBC, Chemistry, Electrolytes and possibly a T4. CBC stands for complete blood count. It is exactly what it sounds like. An analyzer counts cells as they pass by a beam of light. These cells consist of Red and White blood cells. This test can be important in detecting anemia, an infection and more serious diseases. A chemistry tells us how the organs are functioning. The kidneys, liver, biliary system, pancreas, etc. can all be assessed with this test. Finally, electrolyte imbalances and endocrine disorders can often be diagnosed with electrolytes and T4. There is also other bloodwork that may have to be sent off to a lab.
There is a common belief that if my dog is not sick I do not need bloodwork. This may be true, however, the key to early diagnosis and prevention is to detect a problem before it makes your pet sick. Almost everyone has heard, “if they had caught it sooner.” We can’t predict when a patient has early diseases if they aren’t presenting any signs. With bloodwork we can often see signs of disease long before it becomes a problem. This is why in all dogs over seven years of age, I recommend running bloodwork annually. Sometimes, once the pet is sick, it is simply too late. It is also important to check bloodwork when your pet starts or changes some medications.
A physical exam is a wonderful tool and is by far the most necessary part of a visit. But, it does not provide a complete picture of your pet’s health. Bloodwork and a physical exam are used together to provide the best possible idea of a patient’s health. For example, I may notice your pet has bad breath on physical examination. With bloodwork I would be able to determine if your pet’s bad breath is due to kidney disease or an infection in his or her mouth.
Hopefully, this article will shed some light on the reasons a vet may request bloodwork. And hopefully, it will make you as a pet owner more comfortable in discussing it with your vet. A few things to take away:
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