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Cat Blood Test Normal Values – Blood Test Results Explained
By Kristin Hitchcock
We get it. If your cat has recently gotten a blood test, you’re probably worried about the possible results. While your vet will of course go over the results with you, being able to read them yourself can offer some peace of mind and maybe even some answers.
Whenever your feline gets sick, it isn’t odd for your vet to request a blood test. This workup can tell your vet a lot about your cat and rule out many different diseases. If something seems off, it can be the first step to a diagnosis.
When Do Cats Need Bloodwork?
Several occurrences may lead to your vet ordering bloodwork. Anytime your cat seems sick without an apparent cause, your vet is likely to order a test. Blood tests look at many different parameters at once, allowing your vet to rule out and confirm many conditions with one test.
Some vets may also order bloodwork when your cat first becomes a patient. Even if your cat is completely fine, this provides a vital baseline for your feline. When they get sick later, your vet will know what their blood results usually look like for comparison.
Routine blood tests can also check for underlying conditions that may go unnoticed. For this reason, your vet may order annual blood tests every time you see them. Older cats are more likely to need bloodwork, as age often leads to the development of certain diseases.
If your feline is undergoing surgery, a blood test may be required to determine the functioning of the organs before the surgery can be performed. This bloodwork is for precaution only and is used to determine surgical risk.
Most veterinarians have in-house laboratories that allow them to quickly read bloodwork. Most basic bloodwork is done in-house.
Types of Cat Bloodwork
There are several different blood tests that may be ordered. Not all of these are the same, so they cannot all be read the same way. Sometimes, your cat may get a simple pass/fail grade. Other times, the test may check for many different parameters.
Here is a list of the most common bloodwork that cats undergo:
Feline Leukemia: Most cats are tested for this condition anytime they visit the vet for the first time, especially if they have unknown origins. This virus is extremely contagious, can jump between species, and is life-threatening. Therefore, it is always best to have a diagnosis early. This test is a simple pass/fail. Either the cat has feline leukemia, or they don’t.
Blood Serum: This test involves analyzing the cat’s serum specifically, which lets your vet evaluate organ function and hormone levels. Often, this test will be performed routinely with older cats to check on their organ function and overall health. They may also be used to diagnose certain conditions.
Total Thyroid Level: If the cat is thought to have hyperthyroidism, this test checks for elevated or diminished thyroid hormones.
Complete Blood Count: If you receive a paper with lots of different metrics on it, it is likely that your cat got a CBC. This sort of test checks for many different things in your cat’s blood and is often used to determine illnesses. If your vet can’t figure out what is wrong with your cat, they’ll likely order this blood test as a next step.
How to Read Blood Tests
If your cat received a complete blood count, then there are lots of different metrics being tested. During this blood test, many different chemicals in the blood are analyzed. Their results can either be normal or abnormal. Abnormal doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong since environmental conditions can momentarily change blood levels.
Here is what most blood tests look at:
Glucose (GLU): This is your cat’s blood sugar. It is mostly used to diagnose diabetes. However, the values can shift slightly with stress.
Serum Urea Nitrogen: Indicates kidney function. An increased level can indicate kidney disease, though urethral obstruction and dehydration are also associated with increased levels.
Serum Creatinine: This also indicates kidney function. However, just like the previous value, it can also be raised due to dehydration.
Uric Acid: Sometimes appears on blood tests but is not important. It is not linked to any condition in cats.
ALT: If this is raised, it can indicate liver damage. However, it does not indicate a cause.
Total Bilirubin: Bilirubin is supposed to be filtered by the liver. If it is raised, the liver is not doing its job correctly. It can indicate various liver problems.
Direct Bilirubin: This is simply another bilirubin test that looks at basically the same thing.
Alkaline Phosphatase: Sometimes, elevated amounts can indicate liver damage. However, higher levels are often normal in kittens.
Lactic Dehydrogenase: A nonspecific indicator of cell destruction.
AST: While this parameter is not very important, it can indicate liver, heart, or muscle damage.
Bun/Creat Ratio: This indicator is a calculation using other parameters. It is used to determine if other kidney indicators are the result of kidney disease or dehydration.
Cholesterol: Cholesterol in cats is similar to what it is in people. It is used to diagnose hypothyroidism, liver disease, and other common conditions. However, this is not a factor of heart disease, like it is for people.
Calcium: This metric can indicate many different diseases. For instance, it can be a sign of kidney disease, tumors, and similar problems.
Phosphorus: Elevations of this metric can point towards kidney disease and bleeding disorders.
Sodium: As an electrolyte, low balances can be the result of vomiting and diarrhea. However, other diseases can also be indicated.
Potassium: This is another electrolyte that can point to kidney disease if it is too low. Increased levels may indicate Addison’s disease.
Chloride: Often, this electrolyte is lost through vomiting and with Addison’s disease. Higher levels can indicate dehydration.
Serum Protein: Typically, this isn’t used for diagnosis itself. However, it can indicate hydration status.
Serum Albumin: This protein is used to indicate all sorts of different diseases. It can be used to evaluate hydration and various organ problems.
Globulin: This specific blood protein usually increases with inflammation and similar diseases.
If your vet orders a complete blood count, then you may see any of these measurements as well:
White Blood Count: Usually, this count is increased if your feline is sick. Being too low can also indicate some diseases.
Red Blood Cell Count: While this count isn’t used to determine disease diagnosis, it can be used to determine dehydration or anemia.
Hemoglobin: Often, this metric is not serious by itself, but it can be used alongside other measurements for clarity.
Hematocrit: This measurement of the cat’s red blood cells. Usually, this is used to determine if the cat is anemic or dehydrated. It can also be used to determine some illnesses.
Platelet Count: This value is used to determine the blood’s ability to clot.
Neutrophils: These are a specific type of white blood count. Any unusual sign can indicate inflammation, infection, and other diseases.
Lymphocytes: Another type of white blood cell. Changes can indicate certain diseases.
Anytime your cat gets blood work, it can be a bit stressful. However, blood work is one of the best ways to determine the cat’s illness and any underlying problems. If it isn’t obvious what is wrong with your feline through a physical examination, then your vet will likely order a blood test.
However, blood tests don’t necessarily always lead to a diagnosis. Many metrics can indicate different things, so it’s up to your vet to figure out what the blood count is saying, exactly.