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

The most common preventative lab work for a cat is annual blood work. This is usually performed on a healthy cat to establish baseline lab values and look for early signs of subclinical disease. The most common lab work includes a senior panel, which encompasses a CBC chemistry, urine analysis, and a T4. We primarily look for kidney disease, thyroid disease, and endocrine disease. It's better to detect these diseases early on during our annual blood work rather than waiting until they show signs.

Dr. Rachel Kennedy
Highland Park Animal Hospital

How does a baseline lab test impact the health and wellbeing of your cat?

Acquiring that baseline over consecutive years helps us build a database for your pet, indicating what's normal for them. When we see deviations from that, even within the normal reference range, we know it's abnormal for your cat. For instance, kidney disease may show normal lab values for years, but a significant change could indicate disease. Therefore, baseline testing is a fantastic way to catch diseases early.

What are some reasons that my cat might need lab work done?

Any sign of a cat being sick, such as vomiting, lethargy, or not eating, is a good reason for lab work. Cats, being prey animals, are excellent at hiding when they're not feeling well. So when they start to show signs, it often indicates a serious condition that needs addressing. The veterinarian will use the pet's medical history, current signs, and physical exam findings to dictate the most effective lab tests. Hence, it's beneficial always to have recent lab work in your pet's file.

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

Lab work can help detect thyroid disease, kidney disease, endocrine diseases like diabetes, some infectious agents, and liver dysfunction. Lab work is really the only way to detect these until they reach very end-stage levels. We look at organ function, blood electrolytes and other metabolites, urine, and some hormonal testing. It's a very broad net and can be a great screening tool for your pet.

Is blood work alone enough to ensure a proper diagnosis of cat illnesses?

Blood work is a diagnostic tool and should be directed with purpose and intention. Not all conditions can be caught on lab work. While it's an important screening tool for a healthy cat, additional testing such as imaging, specific infectious disease testing, and physical examination findings might be necessary. So, blood work is not a one-stop shop for pet health but a great screening tool for picking up on subclinical diseases.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of cat illnesses using lab work so important?

Cats are excellent at hiding disease and can act normal until the very end. Therefore, we use lab work to catch diseases early on before they're so sick that they show signs. Although this varies from cat to cat, they're generally very stoic in nature and don't show when they don't feel good. Early detection through blood work usually leads to a better prognosis.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (214) 833-9821, or you can email us at info@hpanimalhospital.com. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram