Lab Tests 101
How to read Laboratory Tests Vet Terminlogy
Chemistry Panels & Tests Chemistry Panels & Tests #2
A wide variety of tests are used to certify good health or indicate the presence of infection or disease. The
major tests and some of the common vocabulary in lab reports are explained below. A Complete Blood
Count indicates the number and type of cells in the dog's blood. This standard test can identify anemia and
leukemia, as well as the presence of many infections. A Serum Chemistry Profile includes a variety of tests
that examine the functioning of organs, such as the liver and thyroid. If these tests indicate any abnormality.
Red Blood Cells (RBC) - Responsible for carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body. Iron
deficiency will lower RBC count. In more reduced count, it may indicate hemorrhage, parasites, bone
marrow disease, B-12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency or copper deficiency. RBC lives for 120 days so an
anemia of any kind other than hemorrhage indicates a long standing problem.
Hematocrit (HCT) or Packed Cell Volume (PCV)
- Provides information on the amount of red blood cells (RBC) present in the blood. Decreased levels
means anemia from hemorrhage, parasites, nutritional deficiencies or chronic disease process, such as
liver disease, cancer, etc. . Increased levels are often seen in dehydration.
- The essential oxygen carrier of the blood. Decreased levels indicate the presence of hemorrhage,
anemia, iron deficiency. Increased levels indicate higher than normal concentrate of RBC, B-12 deficiency
(because there are fewer cells).
- Immature red blood cells. Decreased count is usually associate with anemia. Increased count is
associated with chronic hemorrage or hemolytic anemia.
- Play an important role in blood clotting. Decrease in number occurs in bone marrow depression,
autoimmune hemolytic anemia, systemic lupus, severe hemorrhage or intravascular coagulation. Increased
number may occurs with fracture or blood vessel injury, or cancer.
- Measurement of the avarage size of the RBC. Elevated volumes can be due to B-12 folic acid deficiency
and reduced volumes are from an iron deficiency.
White blood cells (WBC)
- The body's primary means of fighting infection. Decreased levels may indicate an overwhelming infections
(viruses), or drug / chemical poisoning. Increased levels indicate bacterial infection, emotinal upsets and
- These smooth, round white blood cells increase in number with chronic infection, recovery from acute
infection or underactive glands and decrease with stress, or treatment with steroids and chemotherapy
- Blood calcium levels are influenced by diet, hormone levels and blood protein levels. Decreased levels
indicate acute damage to the pancrease or undersctive parathyroid. Muscle twitches may occur in
decreased level. Increased levels can be an indicator of certain types of tumors, parthyroid or kidney
disease. Dr. Goldstein mentioned in his book, Nature of Animal Healing that low calcium level may indicate
deficiency of pancreatic enzymes, and high calcium level may indicate poor metabolism of fats and protein.
- Affected by diet, parathormone and kidney. Decreased levels shows overactive parathyroid gland and
malignancies, malnutrition and malabsorption. Increases with underactive parathyroid gland and kidney
Electrolytes (Sodium, Potassium, Chloride)
- The balance of these chemicals is vital to health. Abnormal levels can be life threatening. Electrolyte tests
are important in evaluating vomiting, diarrhea and cardiac symptoms.
- Decreased levels are found in an overactive thyroid gland, interstinal malabsorption. Elevated levels of
cholesterol are seen in a variety of disorders including hypothyroidism and diseases of the liver, kidneys,
cardiovascular, diabetes, stress.
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT
) - An enzyme that becomes elevated with liver disease.
Alkaline Phosphatase (ALKP)
- An enzyme produced by the biliary tract (liver). High levels indicate bone disease, liver disease or bile flow
Total Billirubin (TBIL)
- A component of bile, bilirubin is secreted by the liver into the intestinal tract. High levels can lead to
jaundice and indicate destruction in the liver and bile duct.
Total Protein (TP)
- Increases indicate dehydration or blood cancer, bone marrow cancer; decreases indicate malnutrition,
poor digestion, liver or kidney disease, bleeding or burns.
- Decreased levels indicate problems with antibodies, immunodeficiency viruses or risk of infectious
disease. Increased levels may indicate stress, dehydration or blood cancer, allergies, liver disease, heart
disease, arthritis, diabetes.
- Produced by the liver, reduced levels of this protein can point to chronic liver or kidney disease, or
parasitic infections such as hookworm. High levels indicate dehydration and loss of protein.
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
- BUN is produced by the liver and excreted by the kidneys. Decreased levels are seen with low protein
diets, liver insufficiency, and the use of anabolic steroid drug. Increased levels indicate any condition that
reduces the kidney's ability to filter body fluids in the body or interferes with protein breakdown.
- Creatinine is a by-product of muscle metabolism and is excreted by the kidneys. Elevated levels can
indicate kidney disease or urinary obstruction, muscle disease, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and disbetes. An
increased BUN and normal creatinine suggest an early or mild problem. An increased creatinine and
increased BUN with elevated phosphorus indicate a long standing kidney disease.
Blood Glucose (GLU)
- High levels can help diagnose diabetes and can indicate stress, excess of the hormone progesterone, an
overactive adrenal gland. Low levels can indicate liver disease, tumors or abnormal growth on pancreas,
an underactive adrenal gland.
- The pancreas produces and secrets amylase to aid in digestion. Elevated blood levels can indicate
pancreatic and/or kidney disease.
Color - Normal color is yellow to amber. Red is caused by Blood, Dark yellow to brown with yellow form are
caused by bilirubin, reddish brown is caused by hemoglobin / myoglobin.
- Normal is clear. Cloudy urine is caused by crystals, cells, blood, mucous, bacteria or cast.
Gravity - 1.007 ~ 1.029 occurs with diabetes mellitus, insipidus, overactive adrenals, excessive thirst and
pyometra. A pet with kidney failure has a specific gravity of between 1.008-1.012. In cats with normal
kidney function, the Gravity should be greater than 1.034, in dogs it should be greater than 1.025.
However, over 1.040 can occur with high fever, dehydration, diabetes mellitus, vomiting, diarhea and
- It should be 6.2~6.5, little on the acidic side.
When you have the blood work done, make sure your pets has fasted for at least 12 hours
before the test.
Some difference in clinical chemistries exist between breeds.
You should always establish what is normal for your pet. Their bodies are all different. The
abnormal reading may be normal for your pet.
Normal Values - Canine
Glucose 65 - 120 mg/dl
BUN 6 - 24 mg/dl
Creatinine 0.4 - 1.4 mg/dl
Tot.Protein 5.2 - 7.2 g/dl
Albumin 2.5 - 4.3 g/dl
Calcium 9.5 - 12.0 mg/dl
Phosphorus 3.3 - 6.8 mg/dl
Alk. Phos. 20 - 200 U/L
GGT 1.20 - 10.0 U/L
AST 10 - 40 U/L
LDH 30 - 190 U/L
Cholesterol 110 - 314 mg/dl
Total Bili .04 - .40 mg/dl
ALT 10 - 70 U/L
Amylase 200 - 1290 U/L
CPK 20 - 200 U/L
CO2 17 - 24 mEq/L
Triglycerides 20 - 200 mg/dl
Direct Bili 0 - 0.30 mg/dl
Ur Acid 0 - 2.0 mg/dl
Sodium 140 - 151 mEq/L
3.4 - 5.4 mEq/L
105 - 120 mEq/L
Lipase 120 - 258 U/L
Globulins 0.9 - 4.0 g/dl
A/G 0.53 - 3.5
AGAP 5 - 30
HgB 120 - 180
Hct 0.37 - 0.55 g/L
RBC 5.5 - 8.5 L/L
MCV 60 - 77 fl
MCHC 32 - 36 g/dl
Retic 0 - 1.5% %
WBC 6.0 - 17.1 x1000/ul
Segs 3.6 - 11.5 x1000/ul
Bands 0.0 - 0.3 x1000/ul
Eos 0.01 - 1.25 x1000/ul
Lympho 1.0 - 4.8 x1000/ul
Monos 0.15 - 1.35 x1000/ul
Plat 2 - 9 x100000/ul
The Holistic Guide For A Healthy Dog: Wendy Volhard & Kerry Brown, DVM; Hepatitis A-Z; Howard Hughes
Medical Institute; Washington State University Colleage of Veterinary Medicine; College of Veterinary
Medicine Oregon State University; Abbot Laboratories; North Western Laboratories Limited
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