Should My Pet’s Blood Sample Be Analyzed In My Veterinarian’s Office?

Should It Be Sent To A Larger National Laboratory? 

Ron Hines DVM PhD

See What Normal Blood & Urine Values Are

Causes Of Most Abnormal Blood & Urine Tests

See How Tests Are Grouped

Veterinarians in most of the developed World have two options when obtaining blood chemistry values for your dog and cat. They can run the tests “in house” on a compact blood chemistry analyzer (like the one on the top left), or they can send the sample to a large veterinary diagnostic laboratory that has equipment similar to the ones on the right and a dedicated staff to operate and maintain them.

In non-emergency situations, I prefer that my client’s pet’s blood samples go to a national diagnostic laboratory.  The two I use, Antech and Idexx have offices all over the World. The only time that is not the best option for me is when the veterinarian and the pet need those results immediately (= STAT). 

The reason I prefer to send blood samples to large commercial laboratories is because most veterinary hospitals are inherently chaotic. My staff and I must deal with frequent interruptions and multitasking is the rule. I never felt confident that my staff could maintain and operate these complex machines in a hectic veterinary hospital environment as as well as a large corporation could when focused on doing one single thing well.  There are veterinarians who share my concerns. Inaccurate in-clinic analyzer machines lead to inaccurate diagnoses. The AVMA has no independent quality control mechanism and veterinarians must rely on the claims of the sales force marketing these blood analyzers and their statements that an occasional calibration is sufficient to insure test quality. (read here  & here) Does your physician run your blood sample in the back room?

I also appreciate the expert feedback and interpretation of difficult reports that I have available from the superb clinical pathologists these two companies keep on staff.

The two largest veterinary testing laboratories in the USA are Antech Diagnostics of Irvine, California, a division of VCA (now part of the Mars Conglomerate) and Idexx Laboratories of Westbrook, Maine. The one I interact with most in the UK is Dechra (aka Nationwide Laboratories) in Leeds.

Are There Times When In-Office Blood Analysis Is The Best Option For My Pet?

Definitely so. 

In-office blood analyzers at your local animal hospital are extremely important when your pet is critically ill. In those emergency situations, your veterinarian and your dog or cat just don’t have time to wait to get your pet’s blood work results back from an off-site testing service. Your dog or cat needs immediate intervention. 


So, in non-emergency situations, I suggest that you request that your pet’s blood sample be sent to a national laboratory for analysis (the same thing that your physician does) rather than have CBC / WBC and most blood chemistry tests performed at your local animal hospital. These large labs usually have the staff and resources to insure accurate results. Read about that in above link or here.


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