As veterinarians, we rely on laboratory testing to monitor baseline values and look for signs of illness in cats. These tests give us information beyond what we can obtain during a physical examination, and they are a crucial aspect of veterinary care. 

Here at North Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Clinic, we understand that you want to do what is best for your feline friend but may have questions about their care. That is why we have answered some of the most common questions about laboratory tests for cats below. If you are looking for a skilled veterinarian in San Mateo, CA, we would love to help. Give us a call at 650-535-3557 today for the compassionate care your cat needs. 

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

Basic laboratory work for cats primarily consists of two things — blood work and urine samples. As veterinarians, we rely on these tests to monitor our feline patients’ ongoing health and to check for signs of certain diseases. 

When we do blood work for a cat, we draw a sample from the jugular vein or a rear leg vein. Then, we enter the sample into our analyzer and compare it to the normal values for healthy cats. We collect urine samples either through a special cat litter or by inserting a small gauge needle into the urinary bladder using an ultrasound to guide our placement of the needle. 

Laboratory work allows us to check several things in cats, including: 

  • Organ function
  • Thyroid levels
  • Protein values
  • Blood glucose levels
  • Electrolytes
  • Red blood cell counts and values
  • White blood cell counts and values
  • Platelet counts
  • Urine concentration
  • Urinary tract infections

How does a baseline laboratory blood work impact the health and well-being of my cat?

Baseline laboratory tests are essential because they help us track health changes in patients and can provide a timeline for when various problems may have occurred. If, for example, your cat’s blood work is normal one year and not the next, it gives us an idea of when the problem may started to occur. Without baseline laboratory tests, we cannot identify when health problems began.

What are some reasons my cat might need laboratory work done?

We recommend baseline laboratory work for all cats regardless of their age or health status. In addition, your cat might need laboratory work if they are sick or undergoing anesthesia for a procedure or surgery. 

Symptoms that may prompt us to recommend laboratory work for your cat include: 

  • Gastrointestinal abnormalities
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Not eating
  • Abnormalities with urination
  • Lethargy

What are some possible cat health conditions that lab work can help detect?

As veterinarians, we rely on lab work to help us detect several conditions in cats. 

Health conditions we can detect with lab work include: 

  • Kidney disease (especially in older cats)
  • Hyperthyroidism (elevated thyroid levels)
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Signs of Diabetes in cats
  • Liver failure
  • Underlying causes of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Pancreatic abnormalities
  • Infections
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Feline leukemia virus
  • Calcium deficiencies
  • Low protein
  • Anemia

What specific things are being evaluated in my cat's blood work? How do these results inform my veterinarian about my cat's health?

We examine several things when performing laboratory work. Laboratory work usually includes three to four different tests. A complete blood count (or CBC) allows us to assess your cat’s red and white blood cell counts as well as platelet counts. Another common component of blood work, blood chemistry, looks at values related to your cat’s kidney and liver function, protein levels, pancreatic and thyroid values. With a urinalysis, we look for crystals, protein, urine concentration, bacteria and red or white blood cells in the urine. 

The results of these tests are additional pieced of information that can inform us about of your cat’s health and help us identify health problems. 

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

Blood work is a powerful diagnostic tool, but it does not always tell the whole story about an animal's health. Sometimes sick cats have completely normal blood work. Because blood work gives us a lot of information about organ function, feline diabetes, urinary tract infections, and hyperthyroidism, it provides an excellent starting point. When we need further testing, we may recommend additional laboratory work or diagnostic imaging, such as radiographs (x-rays) or ultrasound. 

Why is laboratory work so important in the early detection and diagnosis of cat illnesses?

Early detection gives us the best chance of treating disease and improving or restoring your cat’s health. Even if we cannot cure a health problem, detecting it early allows us to begin an appropriate course of treatment and to use various treatment modalities to improve the patient’s quality of life. 

For additional information about laboratory work for cats, please reach out to us. As your feline friend’s veterinarian in San Mateo, CA, we are here to answer your questions and perform any laboratory tests they need. Give us a call at 650-535-3557 today.