Understanding Blood Tests for Cats

Diagnostic testing, such as bloodwork, is able to provide your vet with valuable insight into the internal function of your kitty's organs and whether there are any medical concerns. Our Columbia vets talk about what we can learn from blood tests for cats and what the different components are.

Cat Bloodwork: Cat Blood Test Results Explained

When a vet recommends cat blood tests, you might not know exactly what they are looking for. Not knowing why your cat needs a medical procedure done and what the results mean can be very scary for even the most experienced pet owners.

 Below are some of the common blood tests done on cats and what they tell the veterinarian.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A CBC or complete blood count will give your vet an overall idea of your cat's health. Some of the information they will get from this test includes:

  • Red blood cell (RBC) counts, proportions, and health: Red blood cells carry oxygen, iron, and other nutrients throughout the entire body.
  • White blood cell (WBC) counts, proportions, and health: WBCs help fight inflammation, infection, cancer cells, and parasitic intruders.
  • Platelet counts and health: Platelets control blood clotting.

A complete blood count can give your vet valuable insight into whether your cat is anemic, dehydrated, fighting off inflammation or an infection, and whether your cat has internal bleeding.

BUN & Creatinine

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine are blood chemistries that are routinely measured as part of larger blood panels. If the BUN is high, it can indicate dehydration, kidney dysfunction, or a liver problem.

Creatinine levels are more strictly related to kidney function. High levels indicate that the cat's kidneys are having difficulty clearing the creatinine from the body and kidney disease may be developing.

Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) and Bilirubin

ALT and bilirubin are blood chemistries that are also often present in routine blood panels. These are mostly used to monitor the health of the liver and if these levels are too high, your cat may be experiencing issues with their liver.

Glucose (Blood Sugar) Levels

Glucose, or blood sugar, is mostly tested to determine whether a cat has diabetes mellitus, during which the glucose result will be quite high. Low blood sugar can also give a veterinarian valuable information about a cat's overall health.

    Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Testing

    FELV and FIV are routinely tested for in kittens and periodically throughout adulthood. These viruses are life-threatening, and can't be cured once your cat gets infected, so it's important to keep tabs on a cat's status with regard to them.

      Thyroxine (T4)

      Once cats begin to age the vet may start to monitor their T4 levels. A high T4 might indicate the development of hyperthyroidism, a commonly diagnosed condition in cats. High thyroid levels can cause a myriad of different signs in cats, including increased appetite, weight loss, eating non-food items or wanting more human food, and increased vomiting.

      Electrolyte Levels

      Electrolyte levels, including potassium, sodium, and chloride, can tell a veterinarian a lot about a cat's health status, including information about hydration levels and organ function, especially the kidneys. Arrhythmias or weakness can be noticeable signs that your cat is suffering from an electrolyte imbalance.

      Why Your Cat May Need Bloodwork

      There is an infinite list of reasons why your vet may suggest cat bloodwork. Here we share some of the most common reasons behind the need for bloodwork:

      You've brought your cat in for their first exam: We recommend bloodwork at the time of your cat's first exam because it helps us establish baseline health, check for any congenital abnormalities or potential concerns, and help us form an individual wellness plan for your cat.

      It's your cat's annual wellness exam: We will recommend blood tests for your cat at all stages of their life as part of their annual wellness exam. These are extremely beneficial in our mature patients, as we often see cat's health and happiness return to normal when blood tests catch illness early. Cat bloodwork, along with other bodily fluids like urine, can help identify conditions the examination portion of a physical cannot.

      If your cat appears to be unwell: Cat blood tests are suitable for cats that are not displaying any overt signs of illness, disease or injury, but are acting abnormally.

      Your cat is expected to have a surgical procedure: Cat blood work is used to determine the general health of the liver, kidneys, and other organs, which helps a veterinarian select the safest form of anesthesia. Bloodwork can also help determine the surgical risk level in all cats, especially elderly or injured patients.

      What We Learn from Cat Blood Tests

      Blood tests for cats help to determine the health of your furry friend's blood along with the general health of vital organs. During a blood test for cats, various chemicals in the bloodstream are analyzed. Some of the things that your vet will find and look at in your cat's blood results are:

      • Cat blood tests can indicate a deficiency in albumin levels, which indicates a possible liver issue because albumin is produced in the liver, or intestinal or kidney issues as albumin can be lost if these are diseased.
      • Blood tests for cats can detect abnormal hormonal-chemical responses to environmental and internal stimuli, which indicates a potential issue with the patient's endocrine system.

      Once we establish a correlation, we can order any subsequent feline bloodwork or procedures necessary in diagnosing and treating the condition. This makes blood tests for cats a crucial part of their ongoing care.

      Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

      If you still have any questions about the results of your cat's blood work, please contact our Columbia vets.