Ron Hines DVM PhD
To see what normal blood and urine values are for your pet, go here
For an explanation of causes of most abnormal blood and urine tests go here
To see how tests are often grouped, go here
Your Pet’s Blood Chemistry Panel = A Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
I spend much of my day pouring over the blood chemistry values of pets that people send me, trying to find patterns suggestive of one particular disease or another.
The ability of veterinarians to obtain these blood values gives us tremendous insight into the processes occurring in your dog or cat’s body. But these tests are not infallible. They sometimes fail to spot problems, spot problems that are not really there, or give inconclusive results.
For that reason, blood chemistry values mean much less without the pet’s complete history, an in-person health examination, ancillary testing (like body imaging), and close observation of your pet’s response to treatment.
But blood chemistry panels do give your veterinarian the best overall picture of your pet’s metabolic state – an insight into all the physical and chemical processes that are occurring it its body at the time. Certain tests focus on certain organs. You can read about the focus of tests here.
Veterinarians in most of the World have two options in obtaining blood chemistry values for your cat or dog. They can run them “in house” on a blood chemistry analyzer, or they can send the blood samples out to a national veterinary diagnostic laboratory.
I personally prefer that my client’s pet blood samples be sent to a national diagnostic laboratory whenever that is an option (actually the two I use have offices all over the World). The only time that is not an option is when the veterinarian and the pet need those results immediately (STAT).
The reason I prefer to send blood samples to national labs is because I do not feel confident that I can maintain these complex machines adequately in a typical veterinary hospital environment. (There are other veterinarians who share my concerns. Inaccurate in-clinic analyzer machines can lead to inaccurate diagnoses. The AVMA has no independent quality control mechanism and veterinarians must rely on the claims of their sales force that an occasional calibration is sufficient to insure test quality. (ref1, ref2)
I also appreciate the expert feedback and interpretation of difficult reports that I have available from the superb clinical pathologists they keep on staff. I am also not dependent of the profits earned by in-house testing.
But in-office analyzers at your local animal hospital are extremely important when your pet is critically ill and in sudden pet emergencies when your veterinarian and pet just don’t have the time to wait to get those blood results back from an off-site testing service.
The two largest veterinary testing laboratories in the USA are Antech Diagnostics of Irvine, California, a division of VCA, and Idexx Laboratories of Westbrook, Maine. The one I interact with most in the UK is Dechra (aka Nationwide Laboratories) in Leeds.
Antech Diagnostics offers a wide range of test panels. The one I prefer to begin with is their “Superchem”
The second, Idexx Laboratories, also offer a wide range of test they perform at their central regional laboratories, but they also offer rapid “SNAP® ” tests that veterinarians can run in their offices.
Their HealthChek™ Chem 25, comprehensive panel includes:
Albumin, Albumin/Globulin ratio, Alkaline Phosphatase, ALT, Amylase, Anion Gap, AST, Total Bilirubin, BUN, BUN/Creatinine Ratio, Calcium, Calculated Osmolality, Chloride, Cholesterol, CK, Creatinine, GGT, Globulin, Glucose, Lipase, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Total Protein, Sodium, Sodium/Potassium ratio, TCO2 (Bicarbonate) and Triglycerides
Of the in-office blood chemistry analyzers, I am most familiar with the VetScan™ models made by Abaxis. These compact machines utilize pre-packaged, single use rotors to do a variety of blood chemistry tests. It can take as little as 12 minutes to obtain the results.
The “Wellness” rotor measures 12 values:
The “Critical Care” rotor measures 8 values :
The Kidney rotor measures 10 values:
The Liver rotor measures 8 values: