At some point, your vet may require that your dog undergoes a biochemistry profile and you may be wondering what this test entails. The biochemical profile is a blood test that reveals important information about how your dog’s organs are functioning. Depending on your dog’s medical condition, or suspected medical condition, your vet may require a single test, several tests or a comprehensive panel consisting of a multitude of tests. Learning more about your dog’s biochemistry profile can help you better understand what to expect.
A Closer Insight
Your dog’s biochemistry profile is obtained by performing a chemical analysis on the portion of blood known as the “serum.” Basically, this is the portion of the blood that’s left once the white and red blood cells and clotting factors are removed. The serum is therefore the clear, yellowish fluid that remains after the blood is centrifuged (spun) so to remove the above mentioned components. When the blood is spun, the cells will therefore fall to the bottom of the tube while the serum will sit on top.
Most biochemistry profiles will provide measurements of several serum components such as glucose, albumin, cholesterol, liver enzymes, bilirubin, kidney proteins, pancreatic enzymes, muscle enzymes, hormones, sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorous etc.
The information provided by such measurements can provide relevant information about how the dog’s organs are functioning, and its values can help pinpoint problems with the dog’s kidneys, liver, pancreas and more.
Biochemistry profiles are often useful as well when dogs are put on medications that may compromise organ function. Your vet may therefore routinely want to monitor your dog’s blood work when your dog is on seizure medications or when he’s taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID).
Types of Profiles
Because there are way too many components in the dog’s’ serum to test for all of them, the tests are divided into smaller groups, called serum biochemistry profiles. Each profile therefore consists of several biochemistry tests that are tailored to test a specific area of concern. For example, a liver profile would include tests that relate to this organ.
While running several individual profiles can turn out being costly, a money saving option is to have a chemistry panel that contains several tests. The panel most commonly tests for total protein, bilirubin, glucose, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, albumin, globulin, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), cholesterol, calcium, sodium and potassium. Here is a further breakdown of various tests.
Pertaining to the Liver
Total protein is a test that checks for levels of albumin and globulin, two protein molecules. Albumin is made by the dog’s liver and abnormal levels can indicate poor nutrition or some chronic infectious disease affecting the dog’s liver, kidneys and digestive system. Increased levels of globulins in dogs can be indicative of infectious diseases, immune disease, and certain types of cancer. High levels of bilirubin instead are indicative of red blood cells being broken down which can happen when liver disease is present considering that it’s the liver’s job to remove bilirubin from the blood.
Increased levels of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) can be indicative of liver diseases, muscle diseases and cancer. Elevated levels of alanine amino transferase (ALT) indicate that liver cells are breaking down because of a liver problem, cancer or underlying heart problem.
Pertaining to the Kidneys
Creatinine meaures how well the kidneys filtrate. When creatinine builds up it can be indicative of decreased kidney function. Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is usually excreted by the dog’s kidneys, but when the levels are high, it can be indicative of the kidneys not working as they should or the dog may be dehydrated or may suffer from heart disease.
Pertaining the the Pancreas
Amylase and lipase are two enzymes that may be indicative of an inflamed pancreas, but their increased levels may also indicate kidney or intestinal disease. The pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (PLI) is a better test to detect pancreatic inflammation in dogs.
Pertaining to Muscles
Several components in blood can provide an insight into several muscle disorders. Creatinine kinase (CK) can provide an insight on whether there i some injury. Increased levels of Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), which are serum enzymes, are also used to assess a dog’s liver function and can be indicative of muscular activity and muscle inflammation.
Pertaining to Minerals
Calcium: this mineral is normally found in certain levels in the bloodstream, but when levels are low it can be indicative of eclampsia in a pregnant or nursing dog with puppies. High levels may be found in certain conditions such as kidney disease, cancer, parathyroid gland problems or as a result of taking certain medications.
Increased phosphorous levels may be indicative of kidney failure and or malnutrition, while low levels can be a sign of dietary issues, gastrointestinal disease, and kidney disease, just to name a few.
Pertaining to Electrolytes
Abnormal levels of sodium and potassium levels can be indicative of problems with the dog’s adrenal glands, heart, and kidneys. Generally, problems with normal electrolyte levels may be attributed to repeated vomiting and diarrhea, but can also be seen in kidney disease or certain serious, metabolic disorders.
Glucose tests, also known as blood sugar test can help diagnose dogs with diabetes. Low glucose levels can be seen in dogs after exercising a lot (hunting dog hypoglycemia) or in very young puppies of small breeds (toy breed hypoglycemia). Low blood sugar can also be seen with some cancers, infections or in dogs who have received an overdose of insulin.
Cholesterol in dogs is not associated with the obstruction of the vessels of the heart as in humans, but it usually can be a sign of some other secondary diseases.
What Happens at the Vet
Your vet may request that your dog fasts prior to the test. Fasting means withholding food for some time prior to the test, usually for 8 to 12 hours. This period of fasting is necessary so that residual fats and proteins in the blood are prevented from clouding the results.
Getting the blood sample is normally very quick. Gentle restraint may be needed with dogs who are frightened or cannot hold still for long enough. In dogs with long hair, the vet may need to shave some off to easily access the vein. In the picture on the left, you can see some common places where blood is drawn in dogs.
How long does it take to obtain blood test results? How long it takes to get results may vary. If your vet has equipment to analyze blood, it’s done “in-house” and therefore results may take as quick as minutes or the same day. When the blood sample is sent out it may take up to a couple of days.
Costs of Blood Work in Dogs
How much does a dog chemistry profile blood work cost in general? The costs may vary considering that there are different types of chemistry profile and panel tests. Also, the costs may vary from one location and another sometimes quite widely. Your best bet is to always call around for estimates.
Generally speaking, a basic 6-chemistry screen that checks for liver, kidney, and glucose will run around $60, explains veterinarian Dr. Scarlett. A blood panel for senior dogs, on the other hand, which consists of a complete blood count, full chemistries and a thyroid check, may run around $110.