Ever watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House” or “ER”? A patient comes flying in on the gurney and the Doc yells “I need a BUN, creat and lytes Stat!” Ever wonder what on earth they’re talking about? Well, this month, we are going to discuss the importance of Wellness Profiles in our pets — what they tell us and why the information is valuable.
Running a bloodwork and urine panel is one of the most non-invasive tests we can do and it yields a tremendous amount of information. Obviously, if an animal is sick, we often want to run bloodwork to determine the cause of the problem. However, running the same tests on an apparently healthy pet can uncover diseases at an early stage and allow us to intervene before the pet is actually sick. As our pets get older, they become prone to a number of ailments, including liver and kidney problems, diabetes, low thyroid levels (in dogs) and high thyroid levels (in cats). Caught early, many of these diseases can be managed to give our pets longer and happier lives. Also, pets on chronic medication for diseases such as arthiritis, epilepsy and heart problems, should have bloodwork checked every 6-12 months to make sure they are not having any side effects.
There are four main parts to the Wellness Panel. The first is a CBC, or Complete Blood Count. This measures the number of red blood cells as well as their size and amount of hemoglobin, which is what helps the cells carry oxygen. A CBC also measures white blood cells. Abnormalities can indicate infection, inflammation, parasites and even cancer.
The second part of the Wellness Panel is the chemistry tests. There are 22 different parameters measured in this portion. Several, including AST, ALT, ALP, bilirubin, and GGT relate directly to liver function. These are all products made by the liver and abnormalities can indicate liver damage or inflammation. The BUN and creatinine primarily relate to kidney function. These are products which are supposed to be excreted by the kidneys and if the kidneys are not functioning properly, the levels build up in the bloodstream. Other factors measured in the chemistry panel are total protein, albumin, globulins (these can relate to liver, kidney and other organ problems), glucose (elevation can indicate diabetes), cholesterol, triglycerides (can indicate thyroid, liver or pancreas problems), amylase and lipase (related to the pancreas), and CPK (muscle problems). Electrolytes are also measured — sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, chloride and magnesium. These are involved in the electrical and water balance in the body.
The third part of the Wellness Panel is the thyroid function test. This measures two of the thyroid hormones. Older dogs often become hypothyroid, or have low thyroid levels. They tend to gain weight and have poor haircoats. Older cats can become hyperthyroid, or have an over-active thyroid. They tend to lose weight, have rapid heart rates, and are prone to dangerous blood clots.
The last part of the Wellness panel is the urinalysis. This looks for presence of glucose (sugar), blood, protein, crystals and abnormal cells in the urine. Used in concert with the blood panel, this gives us a very comprehensive picture of the overall health of your pet. If we find anything abnormal on any part of the Wellness Panel, we may recommend further testing or early intervention in the form of medication or diet changes. If everything is normal, then great! We now have a baseline that we can refer to if your pet gets sick and we need to run future bloodwork, and you have piece of mind that your pet’s values are all right where they should be.
For more information on these important tests, please stop by the hospital and check out our October display for Pet Wellness Month. We’ll have handouts about the various blood tests and also information on veterinary pet insurance. And don’t forget to bring in your pet for his annual Comprehensive Wellness Exam and vaccines — we can discuss appropriate testing to keep your pet happy and healthy.