Your vet has recommended lab tests for your cat, but what are they and what do they check for? Today, our Berkeley vets explain some common lab tests used for cats and what you can learn from them about your cat’s health.
Common Veterinary Lab Tests for Cats
You know that your cat’s routine exams are critical to their health, but what do those lab tests actually tell your vet? And what kinds of information can you learn about your cat’s health from routine screening?
At Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital, we believe in a prevention-first approach to veterinary care. When we examine your pet, we complete a thorough nose-to-tail physical checkup on their health, including internal checks for blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, and blood pressure.
We also perform any tests they may require (such as routine blood and urine testing) in our in-house laboratory, which allows us to get results quickly so we can diagnose symptoms and begin treatment as soon as possible.
A basic blood screen will likely include a complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry profile. Your veterinarian may also recommend testing for FIV, FeLV, and thyroid hormone levels. Here’s a description of what each of these lab tests for cats can reveal:
Complete Blood Count - CBC
A CBC test counts your cat’s red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells. Each type of white blood cell reacts in a specific way to any threat the immune system may face.
With a CBC, your vet will analyze not only the total number of white blood cells, but also how many of each individual type of white blood cell is in your cat’s blood sample.
Red blood cells (RBCs) move oxygen to the body’s many tissues. A CBC counts how many RBCs are in your cat’s blood and measures how well they transport oxygen based on levels of hemoglobin (the protein which carries the oxygen) in the blood.
Platelets assist with blood clotting. Without enough of these, insufficient clotting may occur and your cat may bleed excessively or abnormally. A CBC will count how many platelets are in your cat’s blood.
Blood Chemistry Profile
The blood chemistry profile takes inventory of the many compounds present in your kitty’s bloodstream. This test can tell you how well your cat’s kidneys are functioning, whether there are any issues with your cat's renal systems and if your kitty is experiencing dehydration or any obstructions.
The liver is another organ that’s vital to your cat’s health. If there are elevated values of chemicals that could indicate liver disease or abnormalities in other organs, they will be revealed with this test.
Abnormal electrolyte levels will also appear on this test. These can be related to conditions and illnesses such as gastrointestinal disease, seizures and more.
Blood protein levels are also critical to your cat’s health, as some have an essential role in the functioning of the immune system, while others aid in clotting. A blood chemistry profile will tell your vet about total protein levels, globulin levels and albumin levels.
Thyroid Hormone Measurements
Thyroid hormones can be measured to find out whether your cat may have hyperthyroidism. This common disease usually impacts middle-aged and senior cats and can result in elevated levels of the thyroid hormone in their bloodstream.
Cats suffering from hyperthyroidism typically experience notable weight loss (even with an increased appetite), and may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst, and increased urination. These cats often look scruffy and unkempt.
Feline Leukemia Testing (FeLV) & Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) Testing
Your vet may also test your kitty for feline leukemia (FeLV) and Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), if your cat hasn't been tested previously, if they are at high-risk of exposure or if your cat is sick. This test can also be administered if your cat has been exposed to another cat with one of these viruses. Though retroviruses cause both of these, they are different from one another.
FeLV is a common cause of cancer in cats, can lead to a variety of blood disorders, and may result in an immune deficiency that hinders the ability of your cat's body to protect itself against other infections.
FIV is often referred to as cat HIV or cat AIDS because the virus acts in a similar way to HIV in humans. FIV-positive cats often have the virus in their system for years before showing signs of illness. But even before symptoms appear the virus silently kills or damages cells in a cat's immune system, often targeting white blood cells, making the cat vulnerable to secondary infections.
Depending on the results your vet receives from these basic blood tests, Your vet may recommend more specialized testing.
For a urine test, you’ll have to do some dirty work yourself and bring in a sample of your pet’s urine to your cat’s regular checkup appointment. But the results are critically important, as this test can detect potentially life-threatening diseases and conditions such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, incontinence, kidney disease, Cushing's syndrome, diabetes and liver disease.
These tests may reveal results that allow your vet to detect conditions early. As a result, your pet may be able to live a happier, healthier and longer life if these conditions can be diagnosed and treated before they develop into larger issues. Your vet can also provide advice on general health and nutrition, in addition to taking steps to prevent illnesses and diseases.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.