“Lab work? But My Cat Isn’t Sick”: Why Preventive Care Labs Matter
At Just Cats Clinic, we believe that medicine should be preventive and proactive instead of emergency and reactive. There are 3 major parts to our preventive care plan – routine examinations, lab work, and client education.
Lab work tells a lot about how the body is functioning together and how each component is functioning on its own. Ideally, we recommend base line lab work on young healthy cats annually and semi-annually on healthy seniors.
So why run labs on a healthy cat?
Because we can catch things before they become a problem for your cat – proactive versus reactive! It’s also very helpful to have a baseline to evaluate change over time or if your cat comes in for a sick visit.
I’m worried about stressing my cat out. Will the blood draw be stressful?
We put your cat’s comfort as a top priority. If it takes 3 team members to make your cat’s blood draw less stressful, then that’s what we’ll do! We can feed treats, scratch heads – whatever it takes. We also invite you to be present (if you like) to help decrease your cat’s stress level. We never take your cat “to the back” without inviting you along too!
What do you learn from blood work?
The two main components of most lab panels we recommend are the Complete Blood Count (CBC) and the Chemistry. In this blog, we’ll discuss what the CBC tells us about your cat’s overall health.
The complete blood count can be broken down into 2 main sections – the red blood cells and the white blood cells. Red blood cells are the most numerous blood cells and are critical for oxygen delivery and acid-base balance. Their parameters can help us screen for anemia which can be indicative of other disease processes in the body. The platelet counts help us know if there are any underlying clot disorders that may pose a problem under surgery.
Hematocrit (HCT) measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and dehydration.
Hemoglobin and MCHC measures the oxygen-carrying pigment of red blood cells.
Reticulocytes are immature red blood cells. High or low levels help classify anemias.
Platelet count measures cells that help stop bleeding by forming blood clots.
White blood cells, which are part of the body’s immune system, help us screen for infection and even potentially cancerous processes. There are several types of white blood cells in the blood, including neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils.
Neutrophils help fight infections. They can be decreased with bone marrow disease, in some viral diseases, and in some cats receiving cancer chemotherapy drugs. Neutrophils are increased with inflammation or infection of any part of the body and in cats receiving prednisolone or other cortisone-type drugs.
Lymphocytes are produced in lymph nodes throughout the body. They also help fight infection and produce antibodies against viruses, bacteria, etc. Lymphocytes may be increased with an infection, they can be decreased in cats that are severely stressed, and they might be lost in some types of diarrhea.
Monocytes are a less common type of white blood cell that can indicate stress or chronic inflammation.
Eosinophils a specific type of white blood cell that if elevated, may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions.
Basophils are a less common type of white blood cells of the immune system. Elevations can indicate allergy disorders, parasitism and some skin and intestinal disorders.
We learn all of that from just half of your cat’s lab work! The other part to basic lab work is a chemistry panel. Chemistry refers to the chemicals in the blood stream that help us evaluate various organ functions and systems. There are between 18 and 27 chemicals that we use to help us evaluate things like the kidneys, liver, electrolytes, glucose, and minerals. In the next blog, we’ll examine the different components of the chemistry panel.