Since blood is so important to the health of our pets, you can imagine that a lot can go wrong with this system. When blood is drawn from your pet, a blood smear is made so that we can analyze individual cells under the microscope as seen here. Each cell type can be quantified and examined for normal structure. Anemia means low red cell numbers. By looking at the pet and the blood smear we can usually determine what has caused the problem – blood loss, nutritional changes, bone marrow dysfunction, or maybe a blood parasite. Fleas commonly carry a parasite called mycoplasma that can cause severe anemia in cats. We can usually see this parasite on the blood smear. There are many types of white blood cells and the numbers of each type, their structure and the ratio of the different types can help us differentiate between sudden onset of infection, chronic infection, allergy or even parasite infestations. Extremely high numbers of certain types of white cells can indicate a bone marrow cancer called leukemia. Luckily, this is not common among dogs and cats. Autoimmune disease and cancer can effect cell counts also. Platelets (necessary for blood clotting) often decrease in number with a cancer called hemangiosarcoma. Both red cell and platelet numbers can go down due to autoimmunity – the body attacking itself. This can be quickly life threatening.
Regular blood screening of middle aged to older pets is important, as is evaluation of blood samples from sick pets. If you have questions about lab screening, give us a call.