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Cat Lab Work/Laboratory - How Lab Work Can Detect Illnesses in Cats

What is lab work for a cat, and how is it done?

Lab work is typically the same thing as blood work, which involves drawing a blood sample. We're often using the jugular vein, which is a vein that runs just under the neck. Other times, we may use a leg vein, a front leg vein, or a back leg vein, depending on what tests we're running. It allows us to take your cat's blood sample and put it through our analyzers here, and compare it to what the normal values are for a normal cat. That's how we detect disease. Also, lab work sometimes involves us getting a urine sample, which can be collected through a special cat litter or through a small gauge needle that we put in the bladder to retrieve the sample.

Dr. Mitch McKee
Berry Farms Animal Hospital - Cupola Animal Hospitals

How does a baseline lab test impact the health and wellbeing of your cat?

Having a baseline lab test is important, especially early on, because it gives you a timeline of when things may or may not have occurred. For instance, if your cat's blood work was normal a year ago and this year it wasn't, then that gives us a little bit of an indication about when and where the problem could have happened. So having baseline blood work is always a good foundation to have for your pet's health assessment.

What specific things are being looked at using my cat's blood work, and what health conditions can they help detect?

Blood work involves three to four different procedures. One is a CBC, which assesses your red and white blood cell counts—it looks at your platelet counts as well as certain cells within the white blood cell count line. The other component is typically a blood chemistry. A chemistry looks at values that are related to your kidney function, your liver function, your protein levels related to your pancreatic function, and often a thyroid level. Then, as we spoke about earlier, a urinalysis tells us whether there are bacteria in urine or red or white blood cells or potentially crystals or other types of casts. Aside from those, there are other tests that we can run to detect certain viruses. We can diagnose kidney failure, liver failure, diabetes, thyroid disease, and viral diseases, such as feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus—all with bloodwork. And then, past that, we can detect if there are low protein levels or whether there are issues involving the electrolytes, calcium deficiencies, or excesses.

Is blood work alone enough to ensure proper diagnosis of a cat illness?

Not always. We see sick cats with normal blood work. That's why it's always essential to do a good physical exam. Using our hands is often better than our tests sometimes in determining what might be going on. And there are other times when we may need imaging, such as x-ray or ultrasound.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of cat illnesses using lab work so important?

Early detection is crucial because it gives us the best chance we have to, one, detect disease. Two, if we detect disease, it gives us the best opportunity to prevent the progression of it if we can. It also allows us to use as many modalities of treatment available to us to help improve the quality of life and longevity of the life.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 283-9040, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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