Why Does Your Pet Need Annual Blood Work?

Why Does Your Pet Need Annual Blood Work?
Joseph Menicucci
Joseph Menicucci

Why Does Your Pet Need Annual Blood Work?

Annual blood work is necessary to ensure that your dog or cat is healthy. Many tests need to be performed to determine the state of your pet’s overall health.

The main reason your pet needs annual blood work is to detect any illnesses before their quality of life is compromised. It is also prudent for your pet to get blood work done to reassure you that they are in good health, or intervene early in a disease process.

All pets should have standard, routine blood work. Read the following article if you want to know more about why your pet needs annual blood work.

What is Blood Testing?

Blood testing is part of your pet’s physical exam. It helps your vet to know what treatment is best for them. Routine blood work typically consists of what is known as a “complete blood count,” or CBC. It also includes assessing the chemical elements in your pet’s blood.

What is a Complete Blood Count, or CBC?

A CBC test provides us with certain information, such as the different types of cells in the blood, revealing various diseases that may be present. Three types of cells can be found in your pet’s blood:

  • White blood cells
  • Red blood cells
  • Platelets

This panel provides data that allows us to look into

  • Each cell type
  • Number of cells
  • Cell size
  • Cell shape

It also shows any deviation in cell appearance.

What Information Does the CBC Give About Red Blood Cells?

Red cells are the most abundant cells in the body. They deliver oxygen from the lungs to the tissues in the body. The following are different factors we look for when studying red blood cells:

Number of Red Cells

The complete blood count measures three different red cell quantities. These include:

  • Red blood cell count
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobin


The above provides information about how many red blood cells are present, and how much hemoglobin is available. If there is a low amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin, this could signify anemia. The CBC is the first step of the investigation.


We may need further testing to make a precise diagnosis. A slight increase in red blood cell count can indicate that your dog or cat is dehydrated. This elevation is usually only temporary.

Size of Red Blood Cells

The size of red blood cells can sometimes indicate whether a disease is present. For example, if red blood cells are relatively large, this could indicate a vitamin deficiency. Smaller red blood cells may indicate iron deficiency or other problems.

Color and Appearance of Red Blood Cells

The color and form of red blood cells can show if health issues are present. Various red cell shape changes are correlated with certain diseases. These changes can provide a clue about what is currently happening in your pet’s body. Further testing may be necessary.

What Information Does the CBC Give About White Blood Cells?

White blood cells are involved in the business of protection. They protect the body against invaders and help to maintain overall health. But at times, the white blood cell count can be too high. The following factors can help us use white blood cells to make diagnoses:

White Blood Cell Count

This test provides information concerning your dog or cat’s immunity and health. It also provides information about how much inflammation exists from the number of leukocytes available.

However, if white blood cells are extremely high, this can indicate infection or severe bone marrow disease, like cancer. If the white blood cells are abnormal, further testing is needed.

The Appearance of White Blood Cells

Leukocyte appearance has to do with how your pet’s body can handle stress. It also shows if there are toxins present in the body. Abnormal-looking white blood cells could signify bone cancer.

What Information Does the CBC Give About Platelets?

Platelets are tiny cells in your pet’s blood that can clump together to stop bleeding. The low or high number of platelets could signify health problems. Here’s what we need to know about your pet’s platelets:

Number of Platelets

If there are insufficient platelets in the body, your pet may experience extensive, spontaneous bleeding. If there are too few platelets, it could be due to:

  • Immune deficiency
  • Systemic illness
  • Immune disorder
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Bleeding
  • Other diseases


A high number of platelets is rarely a cause for concern. It could be that your pet is just excited. However, there could be a problem with their bone marrow, or their spleen in rare cases. Platelets can also increase when there is an iron deficiency.

Size of Platelets

Platelet size generally has to do with age. Young platelets are large, while older platelets are smaller.

Appearance of Platelets

If platelets appear abnormal, it might be due to bone marrow illness.

What is the Chemistry Profile in Your Pet?

The chemistry profile provides information about the enzymes found in your pet’s blood, which reveal information about your pet’s organs, metabolic condition, and electrolytes. We use the chemistry profile to check:

Liver, Kidneys, and Gallbladder

The chemistry profile of these organs does not explicitly answer questions about diseases, but it does require further testing if anything appears abnormal. The chemistry profile allows us to detect certain conditions early, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disorder
  • Gallbladder disease


The chemistry profile helps us evaluate the kidneys, including the blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels. The creatinine level is a big determiner of health issues. Even if creatinine levels are only slightly elevated, that could be cause for concern.  

The primary determiners concerning the liver include:

  • ALKP (alkaline phosphatase)
  • ALT (liver-specific enzyme)
  • AST (enzyme found in liver cells, possibly indicative of liver damage)
  • TBIL (total bilirubin)

The chemistry profile also shows your pet’s blood sugar levels. Elevated blood sugar indicates diabetes. Low blood sugar suggests hypoglycemia. Enzymes in the body are also evaluated. 


If your pet’s electrolytes are disturbed, it could indicate the following conditions:

  • Endocrine diseases, like Addison’s
  • Dehydration


Measuring the electrolytes also helps us get a clearer picture of what is occurring if your pet has diabetes, kidney disease, or another illness. The blood work and the panel will ultimately lead your vet in the right direction.

When is Blood Work Usually Performed?

The complete blood count and chemistry summary are the basic blood tests included in wellness exams. These tests are generally recommended at the following times:

  • As part of an annual or bi-annual wellness exam
  • Before anesthetic procedures
  • When your pet is sick, certain illnesses need to either be ruled out or investigated
  • To monitor certain conditions
  • If your companion has a chronic disease
  • Starting a new medication
  • Longterm medication use


Why Complete Your Pet’s Blood Work Before Their Exam?

At Affordable Pet Labs, we recommend completing your pet’s complete blood count and chemistry profile before their wellness examination. This way, you can provide your vet with all the information they need from your pet’s test results to better evaluate your pet’s current health and treatment regimen. Going by your pet’s results, your vet can then verify that their care is on track, or they can suggest additional tests and treatments to improve your pet’s condition. Having blood work results ready to go at your pet’s appointment allows for more timely and complete care from your vet.

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