What’s the point in doing blood work? The cat has a sniffle, not the plague. Or it needs dental work, not a transfusion. I come home from my doctor with a band aid on my wrist (my only good vein) when I just go in for a routine checkup. The vampire strikes again.
If there’s one thing my doctor (the vampire) has taught me in the past 18 years it’s that the blood reveals all. A CBC, or Complete Blood Count, tells him if I’ve become anemic (low red cell count), or if I have an infection (high white cell count), or a virus (low white cell count), or if my blood isn’t clotting properly (low platelet count), and other factors. In many instances, one single value which is high or low may not be significant in and of itself. It tells the doctor that there may be something going on and points him in the right direction. The real significance lies in evaluating all factors and reaching a conclusion based on symptoms and blood test results. Then, we have a diagnosis.
Blood chemistry tells us a lot, too. With cats, it’s not too much different. In multi-cat households, generally considered to be five or more cats, which quite a few of us have, it’s not unusual to see an elevated creatinine level due to the stress factor. But, if both the creatinine and B.U.N. (blood urea nitrogen) are elevated, there may well be an underlying kidney problem. Combine this with an elevated white cell count, and it could be a kidney infection. Albumin is a protein manufactured by the liver. Bilirubin is a bile pigment made by the liver. Since liver disease can become quite advanced before symptoms become evident, early detection in the treatable stage is very important.
Glucose is blood sugar. Cats can be diabetic. Elevated dehydrogenase and globulin
are very often an indication of F.I.P. Old cats are like old people. Things can sneak up on us and go unnoticed or be attributed to “getting old” and we don’t go to the doctor for them until they hit us like a brick wall. Kitty’s not acting right, seems a little droopy. Maybe it’ll go away if I wait a few days. What’ll go away? The “droopy” or the “kitty”?
Doing blood work doesn’t just give the doctor a basis for diagnosis. If it’s done on a schedule, say, once a year for cats over 7 years old, it can establish a baseline as to the cat’s normal blood values. If the cat becomes ill, the doctor can do bloods and tell if changes are current and significant and a potentially serious problem may be uncovered early enough to treat it successfully. Cats get a lot of things we get. They can be hyper or hypothyroid, diabetic and anemic. They get diseases of the heart, which may sometimes be associated with other diseases. They get cancers, benign tumors and cysts. Diagnosis is critical. Treatment must be specific. Which brings us to …
“Cultures” & “Biopsies”
Back in high school, we put a little spot of something into a little flat glass dish of gooky stuff, put the lid on and came back a few days later to see if anything fuzzy grew in it. (My kid used to do the same thing with leftovers in the refrigerator.) Basically, what we were doing was growing cultures. It was about as exciting as watching grass grow. In the case of infections, cultures are important. There is no one antibiotic that is effective against all kinds of infections. Different infectious bacillus are sensitive to different antibiotics, meaning, only the antibiotics they are sensitive to will kill the bacteria. There are bacteria which can grow without the presence of air. If the wrong antibiotic is used, an infection will spread and can become systemic, spreading throughout the system and sometimes, reaching the point where it kills the cat. Massive systemic infection, resulting in sepsis, resulting in death.
The proper way to identify a growth is to biopsy it. This involves surgically removing a tiny piece of tissue and sending it to a lab, where a pathologist examines it and sends a report of his or her findings back to the vet. Proper treatment can then be applied.
Your Vet does blood work, cultures and biopsies so he or she can get the most accurate diagnosis to treat your cat properly and take the very best care of it. Nothing is more frustrating than taking the kitty back because it’s not getting better. You want it done right the first time. Diagnostic testing is an important, life-saving tool. It can rule out and confirm suspected illness, uncover hidden problems and help your cat live a long, healthy life.
Feline Companions, Inc.
P.O. Box 180303
Richmond Hill, N.Y. 11418-0303