How to Understand Canine Blood Tests

Updated February 21, 2017

When pet owners bring sick dogs into veterinarians' offices, there are a number of different tests that are performed, including complete blood counts and blood chemistries. Veterinarians test white and red blood cell levels, as well as proteins, cholesterol and calcium levels, to determine the health of the dog. Through these tests, it is possible for vets to determine whether animals have problems, such as kidney, liver, or heart disease or infection; anaemia; Addison's disease; or diabetes, muscle disease or Cushing's disease.

Read blood tests and comprehend that different levels of white and red blood cells, proteins and other indicators, such as calcium and cholesterol, demonstrate whether dogs are in the range they should be or whether they could have serious health problems that are common for dogs, such as kidney disease. For example, a normal glucose level for a dog would be between 67 and 125 mg per dl.

Appreciate that complete blood counts measure the numbers of red and white blood cells in the body. Red blood cells provide oxygen to different parts of the body, and white blood cells help to fight infection. A normal blood count range for a dog is 1 white blood cell for every 600 to 700 red blood cells.

Know that both elevated and diminished levels of blood cells can be indicative of health problems in dogs. According to Dr. Dawn Ruben in her article "Understanding Blood Work: The Complete Blood Count (CBC) for Dogs," higher levels of white blood cells can mean that dogs have forms of cancer, such as leukaemia, and lower levels can mean that they have viral infections. Elevated red blood cell counts can indicate that pets are dehydrated, and lower levels can show that they are anaemic or have bone marrow disease.

Understand that blood chemistries look at the amounts of different sugars, proteins, enzymes, minerals and other indicators in the blood, such as cholesterol. Higher levels of calcium, glucose and proteins can indicate serious health problems. There are a number of separate tests that are given to dogs during blood chemistries, including tests for blood glucose, which show whether they have diabetes or hypoglycaemia; for protein levels, which measure albumin and globulins and indicate whether dogs have infectious diseases; and calcium, which demonstrate whether they have a higher risk of heart and muscle disorders.

Look at results and realise that tests are used together to determine dogs' health status. For example, one of the tests in blood chemistries looks at levels of creatinine, a substance that comes from muscle metabolism and is excreted by the kidneys. Another looks at the amount of urea nitrogen, a substance made in the liver and excreted by the kidneys. The presence of high levels of urea nitrogen and various levels of creatinine can be early indicators of kidney disease or related problems.


Dogs need regular checkups throughout their lives. As they age, veterinarians will suggest testing more often, sometimes as often as every six months. As dogs age, they have a higher rate of contracting diseases or infections because their bodies are deteriorating. It is important to start getting pets tested when they are young, because it will help veterinarians determine if they are at risk for certain conditions earlier.


Different labs have different standards for evaluating whether dogs are healthy, so it is important to discuss results with veterinarians to get their opinions on whether levels of proteins, enzymes, blood cells and other indicators are irregular. Blood tests for dogs can cost £65 or more, depending on the veterinarian.

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About the Author

Laura Latzko is a freelance writer based in Phoenix, Ariz. She has reported for the "Columbia Missourian," "Columbia Daily Tribune," "Downtown Express" and "Washington Times." She holds a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Missouri.