Deciphering Blood Tests in Dogs

Here are some of the elements in a dog’s blood test that may help you better understand what the results mean.

ALT (Alkaline Phosphatase) – Levels may be elevated when liver is irritated or damaged.

Albumin – Decrease in levels, look for starvation, parasites, chronic liver disease, enteritis, pancreatitis, blood loss,, glomerulonephritis, poor sources of protein in the diet. Elevated levels may mean fever or dehydration.

AP (Alkaline Phosphatase) – Elevated levels can be present in liver or bone issues, also with pancreatitis, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s Disease, reaction to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories).

Amylase – Increased levels may indicate pancreatitis or kidney damage.

AST (Aspartate Transferase) – Elevated levels can signal toxins affecting the liver.

Bilirubin – (a yellow serum made up of dead red blood cells which is normal) – A rise can indicate liver disease, reaction to toxins, leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis.

BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) – Increased amounts can result from kidney damage, dehydration, Addison’s Disease, leptospirosis. BUN levels may go up and down.

Calcium – High or low levels indicate how calcium is being used by the body. In adult dogsm high levels can signify lymphosarcoma or chronic kidney problems. Higher levels may be present with Addison’s Disease, bone infections, fungal disease in the bone.

Cholesterol is not the same problem for dogs as it is in humans. Dogs don’t develop hardening of the arteries or plaque buildup. But high levels could reveal diabetes, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s Disease, pancreatitis or the use of steroids.

CPK (Creatine Phosphokinase) – Increased levels can signal muscle inflammation.

Creatinine is a waste product of the kidneys. If elevated, it could mean kidney damage.

GGT (Gamma-Glutomal Transferase) is a liver enzyme that detects excess cortisol which may indicate Cushing’s Disease. Phenobarbital and steroids can also raise GGT levels.

Globulin – Lower levels could mean Cushing’s Disease, IBD, intestinal Lylphangiectasis (dilated or varicose condition of lymph vessels), enteropathy (abnormality of the intestinal tract). High levels may signal tick-borne disease, brucellosis, heartworm disease, hepatitis or lymphosarcoma.

Glucose – Increased levels could mean diabetes mellitus or hyperglycemia. Levels can increase during pregnancy or after heat cycles.

Hemoglobin – A tick-borne disease, hypothyroidism, heartworm disease may be seen if levels are low. High levels may be due to diabetes, Vitamin D toxicity, a urinary obstruction.

Lipase is a pancreatic enzyme. Increased levels may indicate upper intestinal inflammation, pancreatitis, renal disease. Steroids can contribute to raised levels and cause pancreatitis.

Phosphorus – Increased levels are caused by renal disease. But puppies can have higher levels than adult dogs.

Potassium – Addison’s Disease can register higher levels. Dogs with lower levels may vomit, have diarrhea, diabetes.

Protein – Increases may show up as inflammation, infection, dehydration.

RBC (Red Blood Cells also known as Erythrocytes, responsible for carrying oxygen to body tissues) – Low levels may reveal tick-borne disease, anemia, iron deficiency, leptospirosis or kidney failure. Higher levels may be due to diabetes, Addison’s Disease, dehydration, a urinary obstruction.

Platelets – Along with a protein called fibrinogen, help to form normal clotting of blood and repair at site of damaged blood vessels. Decreased numbers mean the body is at risk of not forming clots.

WBC (White Blood Cells also called Leukocytes, defend the body against invading organisms) – Low levels can indicate tick-borne disease, hepatitis or pancreatitis. Higher levels may be seen with Cushing’s Disease, leptospirosis or other infections.

Following are 5 components of White Blood Cells

Neutrophils are cells formed in bone marrow. Increased numbers indicate bacterial infection or some type of stress. Decreased numbers occur with viral infections.

Eosinophils are produced in bone marrow. Quantities increase in case of infection due to parasites, allergies. With stress, numbers decrease.

Basophils are also produced in bone marrow. Function is unknown.

Lymphocytes – There are 2 major types, B Cells and T Cells. B Cells produce antibodies to destroy foreign materials and particles. T Cells help destroy viruses and other foreign matter. A decrease in Lymphocytes can indicate the start of an infection, the use of steroids or prolonged bacterial or viral infections and some autoimmune diseases.

Monocytes develop and are stored in the spleen and bone marrow. They eat or engulf foreign material and help with inflamed and irritated tissue. Numbers do not vary much unless leukemia is present.

Generally, the printed blood test results indicate the high, low and normal levels for each element tested. Ask your vet about any results that are not in the normal range or any other questions you may have.

Special thanks to Lew Olson at B-Naturals Newsletter for much of the information.

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