What is cat lab work and how is it done?

Cat lab work involves drawing a blood and urine sample for laboratory analysis. This simple procedure allows us to see more inside the body to determine if a cat has underlying conditions that aren't apparent from the outside. It's important to note that an organ can have up to 75% damage before any outward clinical signs are visible. So, even if your cat looks healthy and behaves normally, it doesn't necessarily mean there are no internal issues.

Dr. Becka Byrd
Northern Oaks Bird & Animal Hospital

Why might a cat need lab work done even if they seem healthy?

Even if your cat appears healthy, there are several reasons to conduct lab work. An annual baseline helps us understand what's normal for your cat. If your cat has been exhibiting unusual behavior, such as drinking more than normal, vomiting, or experiencing bloody stools, lab work can help diagnose systemic issues causing these symptoms. Weight loss, though often subtle in cats, is another common reason for lab work. One of the best diagnostic tools we have is lab work, which helps us understand what's happening inside your cat's body.

What health conditions can lab work detect in cats?

Lab work can detect a range of health conditions in cats, including kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and liver issues. It can also identify infections, inflammation, and markers for inflammatory bowel disease, which many cats have. The information gathered from lab work can provide valuable insight into the direction of further diagnostic steps.

What specific things are looked at in cat blood work?

In cat blood work, we examine a CBC for information about the red and white blood cells, hydration status, inflammation, infection, and anemia. We also look at BUN and creatinine for information about kidneys and kidney function, and ALT, bilirubin, and alkaline phosphatase to assess liver and gallbladder health. Glucose levels help us diagnose diabetes, and we can also perform a leukemia and AIDS test to determine if there are underlying viral issues. Thyroid levels (T4) are screened, to check for hyperthyroidism and electrolytes are checked for metabolic abnormalities. This information is crucial, especially before undertaking any surgical or anesthesia procedures.

While lab work alone can't ensure a proper diagnosis, it does help us determine if a cat is safe for anesthesia. Used in conjunction with a proper exam and other diagnostics, it can help us understand what is happening inside a cat's body. Early detection and diagnosis are crucial as they help prevent larger problems and potentially serious issues that may only become apparent after an organ has lost 75% of its function.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (210) 496-1315, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

Cat Lab Work - FAQs 1

Dr. Becka Byrd
Northern Oaks Bird & Animal Hospital

When will the veterinarian order lab work for my cat?

Generally, we're going to do this annually and if your cat's a senior we'll want to do it twice a year. We'll also order it if your cat is sick or if your cat is going to undergo any anesthetic procedure to ensure safety.

What is included in a baseline lab test?

A baseline lab test is going to be a CBC chemistry and urinalysis. That helps us to determine what's going on inside your cat that they can't tell us externally.

Can blood work help provide a diagnosis?

Absolutely. That's why we run it. The whole point is to determine what is going on and that's part of the puzzle. So it's one piece of it along with other diagnostics and the examination itself.

Can blood tests detect cat cancer?

There are markers that help lead us toward cancer, but there is no one blood test for cancer. It is an impossible question because people always want to know if their pet has cancer and there is no one test for that.

How effective are lab tests in cats?

Lab tests in cats are pretty darn effective. If there is a disease there that they can catch, it's going to show up. So just like a human, if we're testing for thyroid disease and we test that thyroid number, if it's off, we know it. If they have diabetes, we're going to know it. If they have kidney failure, we're going to see those markers.

What lab tests are the most accurate and why?

Generally, a CBC is going to be excellent. Our chemistries are going to be very, very good and those have been refined to be as accurate as they are in humans.

How does the veterinarian decide which lab tests to order for my cat?

That's going to depend on what we're testing for. So if it's presurgical and an apparently healthy cat, we're going to do a chemistry, CBC, and a urinalysis. If we have a sick cat, the tests are going to be tailored based on what symptoms the cat is showing. If we have a new kitty, we're going to test for leukemia, AIDS, and a stool sample because we want to know if there are parasites or viral diseases that we can unmask.

What should I do if I have more questions?

If you have questions that are further in here that I haven't addressed, please contact us and we'll be happy to help you work through these.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (210) 496-1315, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram