As we wind up our tour of the animal body, we need to discuss blood and its components. I like to think of the vascular system (arteries, veins and capillaries) as the highways of the body, and the blood cells as little trucks carrying supplies and garbage to and from the body ™s cells. Blood cells are made mainly in the bone marrow. Red blood cells carry a protein called hemoglobin that transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. A low number of red cells or hemoglobin is called anemia and results in low oxygen levels to the tissues and thus poor functioning of almost everything. White blood cells are the first line of defense in the immune system. They find foreign materials (such as bacteria and viruses) and make every attempt to remove them from the body. Low levels of white blood cells will usually cause poor immunity and thus various infections. Platelets are also made in the bone marrow. These are an essential part of the clotting mechanism – they function to make temporary plugs in small holes in blood vessels to slow the bleeding until a full clot can form. Low platelet numbers will cause bleeding problems. The blood also contains important proteins and many minerals that are essential for normal bodily functions.
Abnormalities in the blood can be devastating. We ™ll take a look at blood diseases after Thanksgiving. If you have any concerns about your pet ™s health or wish to discuss prevention and early detection of disease, please come see us.

by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP