By Dr. Karen Burgess
What is blood chemistry testing?
Blood chemistry testing uses the serum or non-red blood cell portion of blood to evaluate how a variety or organs and systems work in the body. Often a variety of tests are combined to form a profile that is specific for a pet’s age or medical situation.
What tests are commonly performed in a blood chemistry profile?
- Glucose-often also referred to as blood sugar, glucose provides energy to all of the body including the kidneys, brain, and muscles. Low blood sugar can cause seizures or collapse while persistent elevations of blood sugar may be indicative of diabetes.
- Kidney testing-the kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood and regulating sodium (salt) and water concentrations in the body. Ultimately the kidneys produce urine. BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine are waste products that are filtered by the kidneys and elevations can occur with kidney disease or dehydration. A sample of the urine is necessary to fully evaluate kidney function. Electrolyte values are also often performed and further help determine kidney function.
- Liver testing-the liver serves many functions in the body including waste removal and nutrient breakdown. ALT (alanine aminotransferase) is a direct measurement of liver cell damage. This value goes up and down very quickly allowing real time evaluation of damage to the liver. ALP (Alkaline phosphatase) is a less specific test and can be elevated with liver disease, stress, or secondary to hormonal diseases. GGT, AST, and bilirubin are all additional tests of liver function.
- Protein values-the body requires protein as building blocks and in fighting off disease. Albumin, globulin, and total protein are all measures of protein in the body. Low values of albumin in particular can lead to life threatening fluid accumulation in the body.
- Electrolytes–Na (sodium), K (potassium), Cl (chloride), TCO2, and anion gap are all related to electrolyte balance. The body keeps electrolyte values in very narrow ranges. Abnormally high or low levels can lead to collapse, heart failure, or other signs of disease.
- Minerals–Ca (calcium) and Phos (phosphorous) are minerals that are tightly controlled in the body. Elevation in calcium can be associated with cancer and elevations of phosphorous with kidney disease.
- Thyroid testing-thyroid hormone impacts the metabolism of a pet. Elevations, commonly seen in cats, can lead to heart disease, weight loss, and eventually death. Abnormally low levels, more common in dogs, can cause abnormal weight gain, behavior changes, and skin disease.