The holidays are over, the cold is setting in, and it’s time for some much needed rest from the craziness! So why not stop by the Blue Ridge Animal Hospital blog for some exciting entertainment and knowledge?!

This month’s blog will be bloody! We are going to discuss a general overview of blood work. While this may not sound exciting, it is one of the major questions we get asked about routinely and perform on a daily basis. So here are some FAQs:

Why do blood work?

Great question since most of us aren’t always aware what those numbers and letters represent. It can be confusing! We also talk about blood work when your pet is feeling healthy and normal. Why would we do that?!

The point of blood work is to get a clearer picture in general of your pet. It allows us to investigate underlying functions that we may not be able to see in the general exam. And if your pet is feeling well? These values can give us a baseline of normal for you pet, or often times it can alert us to potential problems early so they can be addressed!  Prevention has been shown to be one of the major ways to increase your fur-baby’s life expectancy and even quality of life, which I think is something we would all like to do

What does it show?

There are MANY types of blood panels and testing that can be done. Specialized testing is pursued based on your particular pet and concerns. However, general testing is just that, a general overview of how the body is functioning overall.

The parts of the general blood test generally includes the following. Please keep in mind these are generalized descriptions, and do not cover all the components of these panels.


This test allows us to look at the components of the blood itself, namely the white blood cells, red blood cells, the distribution and shape of these cells, and the platelets. These become important when looking for things like anemia (red blood cells) or infection/inflammation (white blood cells).


These look at how well the organs are functioning in general. They specifically look at liver, gallbladder, kidney, and often electrolytes. Contrary to popular belief, they cannot tell us if cancer is present. They do however give us an idea of the health of these individual organs at that specific time.

Thyroid: High thyroid in cats and low thyroid in dogs can be surprisingly common conditions. This test is included in many pet’s normal blood work over 7 years of age, or if symptoms are noted.

Urine – While we realize this isn’t blood, it is often included in blood panels to give a more complete picture.

4DX or FIV/FeLV: 4dx stands for the 4 things being tested: heartworm, lyme, ehrlichia, and anaplasma. These are the 3 major tick-borne diseases along with heartworm disease. FIV/FeLV and even heartworm in cats stands for feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus.

What if I don’t want to know? I can’t do anything about it, right?

This is an incredibly common question, and we really do understand it. If you can’t fix a problem, why know about it? The good news is that many of these ‘problems’ can be addressed or even improved upon. The benefits of routine screening is to find these concerns early so that we can make a bigger difference earlier. For instance, animals found to have kidney disease are known to live at least 3 times longer if started on a specific diet early in their condition rather than later. For some, that’s the difference between 1 year and 3 years. For cats with thyroid concerns, addressing their thyroid can prevent such issues as heart disease and high blood pressure before they become a problem. Diabetes is on the rise in our fur-kids too. Starting insulin early can prevent worsening of all signs of diabetes.

These are just some examples of what we find or what we are looking for when performing this blood work. Not all the time do we expect to find major conditions, but we can often see things we can start monitoring early as well.

The benefit of this knowledge can increase your pet’s life expectancy and overall understanding of their health. That sounds like some pretty good odds to us, right?!

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to share this with us. Sometimes trying to find the best topic to address can be a little difficult. Sometimes we don’t always know what you are interested in knowing! So if you have something you want addressed, ask so we can tailor these to your questions!