Our feline friends cannot (or do not) tell us when they are unwell. We often use blood and urine tests along with a detailed history and comprehensive physical examination to help us determine if there is a problem internally. In some respects, the blood and urine tests are helping our patients “speak to us”. In our experience, our patients typically “look sick” during advanced stages of disease and appear “sick” suddenly despite the fact that disease has been present for weeks to months. Remember, cats are small and had many predators in the wild. If they exhibited signs of illness or weakness, they would fall victim to predators. What does this mean? This inherent instinct of cats translates into cats showing they are unwell only during advanced stages of disease when they cannot “hide” disease anymore. By hiding the fact that they are unwell, they avoid detection by predators. Unfortunately, you are now the “predator” because if your cat tells you that they are not feeling well, you bring your cat to a hospital (as you should!).
To help counteract this inherent nature of the cat, we recommend annual blood and urine screens. This concept is called Patient Trending. Patient trending allows our doctors to do a number of things. Firstly, we are able to establish normal values for your individual cat while they are young and healthy. Secondly, by comparing the results year after year, we are able to detect changes early. Not only are we able to detect changes when values fall outside the normal reference range, we are able to spot and monitor changes within the reference range. If your cat’s kidney values begin to increase but are still within the reference range, we have an opportunity to begin treatment early and monitor the trends more closely. Patient Trending can be a powerful tool to detect and treat disease early. Again, the main goal is to ensure our patients lead healthier, longer lives.
Any patient requiring anesthesia will be required to have a pre-anesthetic internal organ screen. Even though our anesthetic protocols are safe, patients with an internal issue may pose a greater anesthetic risk. If a problem is detected prior to anesthesia, a protocol can be tailored for your cat to help minimize the risk of anesthesia.
Our hospital is equipped with an in-house laboratory to provide same day results with common blood and urine tests. This is particularly useful when your cat is suddenly unwell and needs appropriate treatment quickly. We also use an outside laboratory for wellness screens and additional specialized tests. Below are explanations of commonly used blood and urine tests.
We recommend a fecal analysis at least every 12 months for our patients. Why? Your pet may be harboring parasites and you may not know it (even indoor only cats). A number of these parasites are zoonotic or can be transferred to humans. Young children, the elderly, or immunocompromised individuals are at greatest risk from a zoonotic parasite your cat may harboring. Parasites that we screen for include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, Toxoplasma, giardia, coccida, and Cryptosporidium. Please visit the links below for more information.
Feline leukemia (FeLV) & feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are major causes of illness and death in cats. Our hospital follows the American Associations of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Retroviral Testing Guidelines. All kittens (and cats) should be tested at least twice in their lifetime 2-3 months apart. All unwell patients need to be tested, even if done previously, as the viruses may “hide” within the body and “come out” at a later date.
These routine blood tests evaluate a number of internal organs and secondary changes when disease is present. Our chemistry panels provide our doctors with the following important information:
- Kidney evaluation – Two waste products in the blood, creatinine and BUN (urea), give us a sense if your cat’s kidneys are functioning correctly.
- Liver evaluation – Changes in your cat’s liver enzymes (ALKP, ALT) and bilirubin levels helps us determine how this important organ is functioning.
- Electrolytes & minerals – Many diseases may change or alter your cat’s electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium) and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium). Patterns of electrolyte disturbances or changes in mineral content in the blood may give important clues to the health of your cat.
- Blood protein levels (albumin, globulin, total protein) – Changes may indicate an inflammatory process, and infectious process, or disease in an internal organ.
- Glucose – Measurement of your cat’s blood sugar helps screen for diabetes.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
A CBC evaluates the red and white blood cell production by the bone marrow and how the immune system is functioning. Our complete blood counts provide our doctors with the following important information:
- White blood cell evaluation – White blood cells help your cat’s body fight off infection. Changes in specific white blood cells lines (neutrophils, lymphocytes, eosinophils, monocytes, basophils) may give important clues to the health of your cat. Abnormalities may indicate an infection, inflammation or cancer.
- Red Blood cells – Changes in red blood cell parameters may give us a clue about a bone marrow disorder, parasites, chronic disease in an internal organ, or an immune-mediated process.
- Platelets – Platelets are used to form clots and prevent bleeding from blood vessels. Changes in platelet counts may indicate a problem about your cat’s health.
Thyroid Hormone (T4)
The most common hormone disorder in cats results from an abnormal enlargement in the thyroid gland and an excessive production of thyroid hormone. Clinically, you may notice weight loss, a ravenous appetite, vomiting, and behavior change. All cats over 8 years of age should be screened for thyroid disease annually.
Evaluation of the urine is an important aspect of our above wellness profiles. Our urinalysis evaluates for the following:
- Urine concentration (this helps evaluate the kidney function)
- Urine pH
- Presence of crystals
- Presence of bacteria
- Cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, kidney cells, other abnormal cells)