Pets don’t have the ability to tell us what’s wrong with them. The veterinarian relies on the owners’ observations and intuition to know when their pet isn’t acting quite right. To properly diagnose the issue, the veterinarian may also conduct certain tests, depending upon the symptoms and/or age of the animal.
What the CBC Test Measures
One of the more common methods of diagnosis is doing blood work, such as a CBC (complete blood count). The CBC measures the packed cell volume (PCV), total plasma protein, total white blood cell count and total platelet count. It’s a screening test that can check for problems, such as infections, anemia and other diseases.
Packed Cell Volume
The PCV is a way to estimate the amount of red blood cells in the body, but that number could vary based on the pet’s age and level of dehydration. A decrease in red blood cells could be caused by external or internal bleeding, or conditions that reduce the production of red blood cells.
Total Plasma Protein & White Blood Cells
Total plasma protein includes plasma prealbumin, albumin globulin (simple proteins needed for proper healing) and fibrinogen (fibrin that assists in blood clotting). White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, are part of the immune system that helps the body fight infectious diseases. An increase in the white blood cell count could mean there is some type of viral or bacterial infection. However, certain types of cancer can also cause an increase in the white blood cell count.
Platelets are actually irregularly shaped disks that are sticky. They help stop bleeding by forming clots in the blood. Too many or too little platelets could indicate different problems, such as blood clots that obstruct the blood vessel if the number is too high to excessive bleeding if the number is too low.
Performing a Complete Blood Count Test
For the CBC, blood will be drawn from either a vein in the front or rear leg, or the jugular vein in the neck. Many veterinary hospitals have special hematology analyzers that can run tests in-house. Other facilities will send blood samples to a laboratory, which means the results wouldn’t be ready right away. Veterinary assistants are usually responsible for not only drawing the blood, but also running the in-house tests.