What Is a CBC and Chemistry Profile?
Blood testing is commonly used to help diagnose disease or pinpoint injury in animals. It can also help determine the state of your pet’s health during regular physical exam visits. Although a CBC or a chemistry profile can be performed separately, these tests are frequently done at the same time; when the results are interpreted together, they provide a good overview of many of the body’s functions. As with any other diagnostic test, results of a CBC and chemistry profile are not interpreted in a vacuum. Your veterinarian will combine this information with physical exam findings, medical history, and other information to assess your pet’s health status and determine if additional testing should be recommended.
Complete blood count (CBC)
The CBC can help determine many things about your pet, including whether he or she is dehydrated, anemic (having inadequate numbers of red blood cells), or dealing with an infection. The CBC measures the quantity and quality of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The CBC results may list abbreviations for the various tests included in a CBC:
The chemistry profile measures a variety of chemicals and enzymes (proteins that are involved in the body’s chemical reactions) in the blood to provide very general information about the status of organ health and function, especially of the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. The chemistry profile also shows the patient’s blood sugar level and the quantities of important electrolytes (molecules like sodium, calcium, and potassium) in the blood.
How Is a CBC and Chemistry Profile Performed?
To perform a CBC and chemistry profile, your veterinary team must first obtain a small blood sample from your pet. This procedure is usually very quick; it may take only a few seconds if the patient is well behaved. For patients that are very frightened or not well behaved, your veterinary team may want to use a muzzle, towel, or other gentle restraint device. In some cases, such as in patients with very thick fur, it may be necessary to shave the hair from the area where blood will be drawn. This is often a good way to find the vein quickly, and the hair will grow back.
Some veterinary offices have in-house blood analysis equipment, so they can perform a CBC and chemistry profile in the office and have results the same day. Other offices send blood samples to an outside laboratory for these tests to be performed. If an outside laboratory is used, results are generally available within 1 to 2 days.
Because a recent meal changes the blood and may affect the results of a chemistry profile, your veterinarian may recommend that your pet not receive any food for 8 to 12 hours before blood is drawn. In most cases, water can still be offered. Please let your veterinarian know if this temporary fast will be a problem for you or your pet.
Also, be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications or supplements that your pet is receiving, as some products can alter the results of a chemistry profile.
What Is a CBC and Chemistry Profile Used For?
A CBC and chemistry profile is an important component of wellness blood work. Your veterinarian may recommend wellness blood work during your pet’s regular exams. Even if your pet is young and healthy, performing this testing periodically helps establish “normal” values for your pet. The next time blood work is performed, your veterinarian can compare the results with previous results to see if anything has changed. Depending on your pet’s age and health history, additional tests (such as thyroid testing or urinalysis) may also be recommended as part of wellness testing. For seniors or chronically ill pets, your veterinarian may recommend blood work more frequently. Wellness blood work screens for many medical conditions, including diabetes and kidney disease. In many cases, early diagnosis and management can improve quality of life and the long-term prognosis for pets with chronic illnesses.
When a pet presents with clinical signs indicating an illness, a CBC and chemistry profile is often performed very early during the diagnostic process. Even if results of this initial testing are all “normal,” this information can rule out a variety of medical conditions. If results of a CBC and chemistry profile are abnormal or inconclusive, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing to get closer to a diagnosis.
A CBC and chemistry profile is also part of routine blood work that is performed before a pet undergoes general anesthesia for a surgical procedure. If test results are abnormal, your veterinarian may recommend additional precautions to help ensure your pet’s safety during the procedure. Your veterinarian may also recommend postponing the procedure or choosing an alternative treatment option.
Performing a CBC and chemistry panel poses minimal risk for your pet, and in many cases, the information your veterinarian gains from this testing is invaluable.
Periodontal Disease—Why Brush?
Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most dogs before they are 3 years old. Bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to affect other organs and cause illness. One of the best ways to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis—daily, if he or she will allow it.
Dogs are never too young to start having their teeth brushed at home; in fact, the younger they are, the better.
Before you start brushing your dog’s teeth, have them checked by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning to remove any existing plaque and tartar, which contribute to periodontal disease. If your dog has severe dental disease, extraction of the affected teeth may be recommended. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendation on how long to wait after dental cleaning or extraction before brushing your dog’s teeth.
What You Need
Note: Do not use toothpaste for people or baking soda because these can upset your dog’s stomach. Pet toothpaste comes in different flavors (e.g., poultry, beef). You may need to try a couple flavors to find the one your dog likes the best. The more your dog likes the toothpaste, the easier it will be to train him or her to accept brushing.
Other Ways to Control Plaque
Although there’s no substitute for regular toothbrushing, some dogs just won’t allow it. If you can’t brush your dog’s teeth, ask your veterinarian about plaque-preventive products. Feeding dry food may also help keep your dog’s teeth and gums in good condition. The Seal of Acceptance from the Veterinary Oral Health Council appears on products that meet defined standards for plaque and tartar control in dogs and cats.
Signs of Dental Problems
Periodontal Disease—Why Brush?
Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most cats before they are 3 years old. Bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to affect other organs and cause illness. One of the best ways to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your cat’s teeth on a regular basis—daily, if he or she will allow it. Cats are never too young to start having their teeth brushed at home; in fact, the younger they are, the better.
Before you start brushing your cat’s teeth, have them checked by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning to remove any existing plaque and tartar, which contribute to periodontal disease. If your cat has severe dental disease, extraction of the affected teeth may be recommended. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendation on how long to wait after dental cleaning or extraction before brushing your cat’s teeth.
What You Need
Note: Do not use toothpaste for people or baking soda because these can upset your cat’s stomach. Cat toothpaste comes in different flavors (e.g., poultry, beef). You may need to try a couple flavors to find the one your cat likes the best. The more your cat likes the toothpaste, the easier it will be to train him or her to accept brushing.
Other Ways to Control Plaque
Although there’s no substitute for regular toothbrushing, some cats just won’t allow it. If you can’t brush your cat’s teeth, ask your veterinarian about plaque-preventive products. Feeding dry food may also help keep your cat’s teeth and gums in good condition. The Seal of Acceptance from the Veterinary Oral Health Council appears on products that meet defined standards for plaque and tartar control in dogs and cats.
Signs of Dental Problems
Bringing a new kitten home is exciting. The following guidelines will help you and your kitten adjust to this big change in your lives.
Kittens can leave their mother and littermates after they have been weaned, usually at 8 to 10 weeks of age. Like human babies, kittens require special care, including veterinary care, feeding, and socialization. The best time to bring a kitten home is when you have at least 1 or 2 days to focus on helping him or her adjust to new surroundings.
To safely transport your new kitten home, you’ll need a carrier. Leaving mom is a big deal for your kitten; a carrier will help him or her feel more secure. Don’t use another pet’s carrier because its smell could be stressful to your kitten. Place a towel in the carrier for warmth and to absorb urine in case of an accident. Carry an extra towel.
Before your kitten has contact with other cats, he or she must be tested for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus, given a physical examination, tested and treated for parasites, and vaccinated. This will prevent the spread of a disease or parasites to other pets. If you have other pets, talk to your veterinarian about how to introduce your kitten to them.
Before you bring your kitten home, prepare a small room or space that will be his or her own for the first few days or weeks. Having a smaller area to explore at first will help your kitten get comfortable with his or her new home. Cats don’t like to eat next to the litterbox, so place the litterbox on one side of the room and the food and water dishes on the other. Make sure that your kitten can get in and out of the litterbox without help; it might be necessary to provide a litterbox with low sides. To help your kitten feel secure, make sure that the room has hiding places. If there isn’t furniture to hide beneath, place cardboard boxes on their sides or cut doorways into them. Providing a warm, comfortable bed is essential. You can purchase a pet bed or line a box with something soft; using a sweatshirt that you’ve worn will help your kitten get used to your scent.
When you bring your kitten home, put the carrier in the room you’ve prepared. Open the carrier door, but let your kitten come out when he or she is ready. After your kitten comes out, leave the carrier in the corner as another hiding place. Every day, scoop out the litterbox and provide fresh food and water.
Your kitten may hide at first, but he or she will explore when no one is watching, becoming more comfortable with his or her new home. Your kitten will likely want plenty of attention from you—you’re his or her new mother/littermate!
After your kitten has been to your veterinarian, becomes comfortable in his or her room, and develops a regular routine of eating, drinking, and using the litterbox, you can let him or her venture into the rest of your house. At this point, you need to make sure that your kitten stays safe and has enough privacy to eat, sleep, and use the litterbox. Keep your kitten’s bed, litterbox, and food/water dishes in the same place so that he or she knows where to find them.
Kittens receive some immunity (protection against disease) from their mothers at birth and through nursing. Because this immunity slowly wears off, kittens should be vaccinated against various diseases on a schedule, beginning at 2 to 3 months of age. Ask your veterinarian for details.
Intestinal parasites are common in kittens. Fecal examinations and treatments (dewormings) are usually repeated until two consecutive fecal examinations have negative results. External parasites (fleas, ticks, and mites) are treated with products approved for use on kittens.
Kittens should be spayed or neutered by 6 months of age. This helps to control pet overpopulation and reduces the chance of behavior problems and some medical conditions.
Proper nutrition is especially important for kittens, which need two to three times as many calories and nutrients as adult cats. A mother cat’s milk provides everything a kitten needs during the first 4 weeks of life. Cow’s milk should never be given to kittens or cats because it can give them diarrhea. Most kittens are completely weaned between 8 and 10 weeks of age. At 6 to 7 weeks of age, kittens should be able to chew dry food. Feed a name-brand kitten food with the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement on the bag or labeluntil your kitten is approximately 9 to 12 months old. When your kitten is 3 to 6 months old, feed him or her three times per day. When your kitten is 6 months old, start feeding twice daily.
Cats learn how to socialize with each other from their mother and littermates; therefore, if possible, kittens should remain with their mother and/or littermates until they are about 10 weeks old. Kittens that have human contact before they are 10 to 12 weeks old are more likely to interact well with people throughout their lives. Handling and playing with your kitten can help you bond with him or her. Feral (wild) cats haven’t been socialized with people as kittens and may fear and avoid people throughout their lives. Your kitten should be gradually introduced to other pets with care and supervision. Ask your veterinarian for advice on the best way to do this.
Enjoy your new kitten, and let your veterinarian know if you have any questions.
Dr. Carlson is an avid contributor to her blog, make sure you check out her articles!