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Tip of the Month

1/25/2010 Blood Tests - The CBC (Complete Blood Count)

Pets cannot tell us what is wrong with them. The veterinarian relies on the owners’ observations and intuition to know when their pet is not acting quite right. One of the tools the veterinarian will use is doing certain tests, depending upon the symptoms and / or age of the animal.

One of the more common tools is doing blood work and a CBC (complete blood count) is a typical laboratory procedure. The CBC measures the packed cell volume (PCV), total plasma protein, total white blood cell count and the total platelet count. It is a screening test that can check for such problems as infections, anemia and other diseases. You can contact you r local veterinary assistant to schedule an appointment for a CBC test.

The PCV (packed cell count) is a way to estimate the amount of red blood cells in the body but it could vary depending upon if the pet is dehydrated or their age. A decrease in RBC’s could be due to external or internal bleeding, or some conditions that causes a reduction in the production of the red blood cells.

Total plasma protein includes plasma pre-albumin, albumin globulin (which are simple proteins and is needed for proper healing) and fibrinogen (which becomes fibrin and assists in blood clotting). White blood cells or WBC’s ( also known as leukocytes) are part of the immune system that helps the body to fight infectious diseases. An increase in the WBC count could mean there is some type of viral or bacterial infection. However, certain types of cancer can also cause an increase in the white blood cell count.

Platelets are actually irregular shaped disks that are sticky. They are instrumental in stopping bleeding by forming clots in the blood. Too many or too little platelets could indicate different problems such as blood clots that obstruct the blood vessel if the number is too high to excessive bleeding if the number is too low.

For the CBC, blood will be drawn from either a vein in the front or rear leg, or the jugular vein in the neck. Many veterinary hospitals have special hematology analyzers that are able to run tests in-house. Other facilities will send blood samples to a laboratory, which means the results, would not be ready right away. Veterinary assistants are usually responsible for not only drawing the blood but also for running the in-house tests.

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