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A Dog’s Normal Blood Level Results
This text file is meant to delineate what the normal blood panel results should be for a dog and explains what each element is and what it shows. Blood results can be exceedingly puzzling and in most cases it takes a professional to analyze and understand them. It is hoped this reference guide will assist those with chronic kidney failure dogs, where one or more of the blood result levels are likely to be abnormally high or low.
Although I have combined the results below, it is unlikely a dog will have all these elements in their blood test, as some are specific to particular diseases and conditions. The results that follow combine a blood chemistry panel test and a hemoglobin test, along with several other individual tests. They are all listed here in alphabetic order for ease of reference. If you feel there is something missing, inaccurate or needs updating, please let me know. You can contact me (Tony Booth) through MedHelp’s Chronic Kidney Failure in Dogs User Group.
It is useful to point out that ‘normal’ is a difficult term, because while there is a range generally considered to be normal, each veterinary practice is likely to determine their own set of normal values based on experience, professional discretion and the latest research findings. Generally accepted normal values are shown in brackets):
ALT (15 - 84 U/L)
ALT stands for Alunine aminotransferase, which is an enzyme found mostly in the cells of the liver and kidney, but also in much smaller amounts in the heart and muscles. Increased results suggest liver damage, severe shock, toxin ingestion, Cushing's disease, acute or chronic hepatitis and/or pancreatitis among other secondary and primary conditions. Lowered results are rare, but more common during Cephalosporin treatment using certain medicines that kill bacteria or prevent their growth. Lowered results are also indicative of increased blood lactate, which interferes with the blood test enzyme reaction when measuring. Phenytoin, primidone and glucocorticoids are medicines that can all yield lower results. Low readings are also typical of a dog that has been starved or has malnutrition.
BANDS X1000/UL (0.0 - 0.3)
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell designed to defend the body against infection. The Bands are a measure of how many young and recently created Neutrophils are in the blood. These cells are produced mainly in the bone marrow and are released into the bloodstream, most commonly to fight bacterial infection. While there are other types of white blood cell released to defend the body, these are the first to activate. It is worth noting that Neutrophils can also increase in number when the body has gone into shock or during or following trauma and/or surgery. Autoimmune and allergic reactions can also cause increased Neutrophile, as can certain medicines (notably Prednisilone). However, when the volume decreases below normal, this suggests an infection is more viral rather than bacterial in nature. Certain diseases, toxins and drugs can also reduce the number.
BLOOD UREA NITROGEN (BUN) (9 - 27 mg/dL)
When proteins from the diet are processed in the body, various toxic waste elements are produced. One of these waste products is ammonia, which is extremely harmful. The liver produces urea, which is far less toxic, and this helps to transport ammonia safely through the blood to the kidneys and then out of the body. When BUN levels are elevated, it indicates the kidneys are unable to remove the excessive amount of urea being produced. Vets will ordinarily describe a dog being uremic or azotemic when this situation occurs. In the case of chronic kidney disease, high levels of urea are only one of the many toxic waste elements building up inside the body – it is just that this is the easiest to test – and it is considered a primary diagnostic indicator of kidney failure, along with abnormal Creatinine levels.
Unfortunately, it is only when about two-thirds of the kidneys have failed that urea starts to build-up in the blood (termed ‘renal elevation’). Until this point, a dog may show no symptoms of illness, other than drinking and urinating more than normal.
While kidney failure is certainly the most common reason BUN levels become high, there are also many other possible reasons to explain it – and that’s why other blood tests and a symptom history analysis are required, so a vet can determine an accurate diagnosis. For example, BUN can be raised due to other illnesses that have affected the kidneys or due to kidney stones, tumors or bladder paralysis (usually caused through injury to the spinal cord). Severe dehydration can also cause BUN levels to become high, though this is easily determined, because Creatinine levels tend to remain normal. Congestive heart disease, Cushing's disease (and cortisone-like medicines that mimic it) and Addison’s disease all have a tendency to produce moderately elevated BUN levels, as do many other illnesses, conditions and medicines.
BUN levels can be reduced by restricting the intake of protein (hence the useful impact of renal specific dog food for chronic kidney failure dogs) and by increasing the intake of fluids (the administration of IV fluids is particularly effective).
BUN levels can fall below normal, if something has damaged the liver and is preventing it from producing urea. Abnormal blood circulatory conditions that interfere with the movement of blood around the liver can have the same effect. Intestinal disease can also lower BUN levels, because protein absorption may become restricted.
CHLORIDE (106 - 118 mmol/L)
Chloride is an electrolyte. There are two different kinds of salts contained in blood and, in their appropriate volumes, they are essential to good health and life. The two salts are potassium chloride (KCl) and sodium chloride (NaCl). Chloride ions maintain blood volume, affect blood pressure and help control the acid-balance of the canine body. Chloride is reformed into hydrochloric acid in the stomach to assist in the digestion of food. Given a sufficient intake of salts in the diet, the correct amounts of chlorine, sodium and potassium are carefully and accurately controlled by healthy kidneys. Chloride levels ordinarily rise and fall along with the blood sodium level. High chloride levels (hyperchloremia) can occur for many reasons, including dehydration, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, epilepsy (due to potassium bromide being given) and medicines such as meloxicam (Metacam) and carprofen (Rimadyl). Sometimes, chronic kidney failure can cause the unusual situation where chloride levels rise and sodium levels fall – though this is not always indicative of kidney failure, as it may also suggest something else is disrupting the body’s acidity balance.
Sustained periods of vomiting can cause chloride levels to fall below normal. The consumption of baking-soda, some diuretics (notably Lasix), chronic heart disease and Adison’s disease can all contribute to abnormally low chloride readings.
CREATININE (CREA) (0.4 – 1.4)
Creatine is a compound formed in protein metabolism and is present in almost all living tissue. It is a substance that supplies muscle tissue with energy. Creatinine is a chemical waste byproduct created from this compound when muscles contract (note creatine and creatinine are two very different compounds). Creatinine is usually filtered and flushed out of the body through the kidneys. When muscle mass remains unchanged, the creatinine levels stay much the same – but if the kidneys are traumatized by injury or damaged through disease, they are unable to deal with this waste product, which means the levels build-up over time. High levels suggest kidney disease, muscle disease, urinary obstruction, hyperthyroidism, diabetes or arthritis.
In the case of chronic kidney disease, higher than normal BUN levels and normal creatinine levels suggest early onset of a problem. It is useful for diagnostic purposes to undertake a urine microalbuminuria test, as the results can help determine early onset kidney disease. This will allow earlier intervention and faster management, potentially resulting in a longer and better quality of life for the dog. Crucially, when BUN, creatinine and phosphorus levels are all high, it suggests the kidney disease is longstanding and may have been slowly occurring for a substantial period of time.
A dog diagnosed with kidney failure and with a 1.4 Creatinine level is commonly said to be in stage 1 of the disease; 1.4 to 2.0 = stage 2; 2.1 to 5.0 = stage 3; and above 5.0 = stage 4. Vets commonly see and diagnose dogs in stages 3 and 4, with stage 4 being the late stage of kidney failure.
It is worth noting that dogs with genetically more muscle mass, particularly greyhounds and certain other working dogs and sight hounds, will have a normal creatinine level of about 1.6 compared with an upper-normal of about 1.0 in other breeds.
Liver disease or a liver shunt (also termed ‘portosystemic shunt’), malnutrition (or a diet containing extremely low mounts of protein) and pregnancy can all cause creatinine levels in the blood to fall below normal.
EOSINOPHILS X1000/UL (0.01-1.25)
Eosinophils are white blood cells that are larger in size and fewer in number than neutrophils (see BANDS X1000/UL above). These granules are manufactured in the bone marrow and then travel in the blood for a short time, before moving into a dog’s body tissues. Eosinophils engulf particles that are foreign or alien to the bloodstream. Higher than normal levels are typical with allergic reactions, inflammatory bowel disease, internal parasitic infections, flea allergies, heartworm, various tumors (including mass cell tumor) and Addison’s disease.
There is no such thing as a low eosinophils level, because a healthy dog may have none of these granules circulating in the blood. However, it is worth noting that corticosteroid medications tend to reduce the volume of eosinophils. Prolonged stress can also inhibit the number (when cortisol levels increase). It is worth knowing about these complications, because they may subdue or completely mask an otherwise diagnostically useful high-level result.
GLUCOSE (GLU) (67 - 125 mg/dL)
The amount of glucose in the blood can help diagnose a variety of conditions. High levels may suggest diabetes, severe stress, an overactive adrenal gland or an excess of progesterone (a hormone). Moderately high levels are common in female dogs up to two months after their last heat cycle or during pregnancy. Medications including morphine, epinephrine, thyroxin, xylazine, megesterol acetate, depopovera, beta blockers and niacin can all increase blood glucose. In terms of chronic kidney failure, early identification and effective treatment of abnormal blood glucose can help slow down and even prevent kidney failure emerging, because sustained high levels of glucose over time can contribute to triggering the condition.
Lower than normal values may indicate an abnormal growth affecting the pancreas, Addison’s disease, bacterial infection, an underactive adrenal gland, starvation, liver disease or the presence of tumors. Further tests will help determine which of these conditions apply. When the results show low glucose levels (particularly if the blood sample has been tested outside the veterinary practice), it is worth having the test repeated, because it is known that samples left too long before being analyzed or those placed in an inappropriate collection tube can result in false readings.
HEMATOCRIT (HCT) (37 - 55 percent)
Sometimes referred to as Packed Cell Volume (PCV). Hematocrit levels identify the number of red blood cells in the blood. This is an important test, because decreased levels suggest an iron deficiency, anemia and/or hemorrhage. When levels are high, it suggests vitamin B12 deficiency, which is a common condition in Chronic Kidney Failure (due to dogs failing to eat sufficiently). B12 supplementation is sometimes advised in these circumstances.
HEMOGLOBIN (HgB) (120-180)
Hemoglobin carries life-essential oxygen through the blood. When the level is reduced, it suggests iron deficiency, hemorrhage or anemia. High levels suggest dehydration and/or vitamin B12 deficiency, but it can also indicate sluggish transportation of blood such as might occur with advanced heart disease. It is worth pointing out that sight hounds, such as greyhounds, ordinarily have a slightly raised hemoglobin count.
LDH (10 - 273 U/L)
This is usually listed as the abbreviation LDH, which stands for Lactate Dehydrogenase. This is an enzyme found in many of the cells of a dog’s body. It helps convert blood glucose into energy, which in turn help the cells survive. There is more LDH in the most demanding and powerful parts of a dog’s body, such as the heart, liver, kidneys, muscles and red blood cells. When an organ, tissue or system is injured, diseased or traumatized, the LDH normally employed by that part of the body will leak into the blood supply. This will create a raised LDH result in the blood test. On its own, this result tells a vet that something is wrong, but it does not identify where or what the problem might be.
LDH can also rise due to acute pancreatitis, some malignant tumors, strenuous exercise, hemolytic anemias and heart disease. False readings can occur if blood samples are left to stand too long before being used for testing or if the red blood cells fracture when being drawn out of the dog’s vein. For this reason, when the LDH tests high, a repeat test is advised for confirmation.
LIPASE (200 - 700 U/L)
Lipases are an important group of enzymes, because they help a dog absorb and utilize dietary fats. The most significant lipase is produced by the pancreas and carried by the pancreatic ducts to the intestine to help digestion. When a vet conducts an examination and finds a dog has abdominal pain or discomfort and lipase in the blood test is raised, they will suspect the pancreas is likely to be involved. This in itself is not diagnostically accurate, however, because even when there is a pancreatic abnormality, lipase levels can read as normal. It is only through other additional tests that an accurate diagnosis can be made. When the lipase level is three times or more above normal, it becomes much more certain that a problem exists with the pancreas, but additional testing is still required to confirm it.
LYMPHOCYTES X1000/UL (1.0-4.8)
There are three different types of white blood cell that make up the lymphocytes in a dog’s body. They are primarily found in the lymphatic system and are triggered by the immune system as a defense against germs and diseases. Small increases in their number ordinarily occur due to fear, excitement and/or stress. A temporary increase can also occur when a dog has been receiving prolonged corticosteroid medication and the medication has consequently been stopped.
More significantly high levels are caused by autoimmune disease, fever, hyperthyroidism, blood parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, Addison’s disease or certain medications (notably methimazole). Older dogs may have raised lymphocytes due to lymphoma, hemolytic anemia, thymoma tumors or lymphocytic leukemia. Lymphocytic leukemia can also cause lymphocyte numbers to reduce below normal levels.
Cushing’s disease (where the adrenal glands are producing an excessive amount of cortisol) is known to reduce lymphocyte levels below normal. Low readings are also common if a dog has been receiving corticosteroid medication. Prolonged periods of stress and (significantly) contracting recent Parvovirus are two reasons why lymphocyte levels might reduce, though these are not entirely reliable as diagnostic results.
MAGNESIUM (1.5 - 2.7 mg/dL)
Meat is a rich source of magnesium, which is why it is found in abundance in a dog’s bone structure and tissue cell composition. Magnesium assists enzyme reactions. As there is only about 1% of a dog’s available magnesium contained within blood, a low reading is not necessarily indicative of a deficiency. Magnesium levels can fall below normal for many reasons, including almost any illness. More commonly, the level will drop due to intestinal disease, pancreatitis, prolonged periods of diarrhea or progressive kidney failure. In addition, magnesium levels can fall when a dog stops eating properly or is restricted from eating meat in the diet or is being starved. Low levels may also be apparent with poorly controlled diabetes and hyperthyroidism.
Chronic kidney failure dogs are often given IV fluids (which may be magnesium free) to help flush toxins from the body. This can result In low magnesium levels – and the same can happen when dogs with heart disease receive a diuretic, such as furosemide.
High magnesium levels occur when the kidneys go into complete shut down. Above normal readings can also result from urinary tract blockages, Addison’s disease or the use of laxatives and supplements containing magnesium.
MEAN CORPUSTULAR HEMAGLOBIN (MCH) (19.5 - 25.5 pg)
This tests the amount of hemoglobin in each red blood cell as a sample average. Low readings are indicative of hypochromic anemia, commonly caused by an iron efficiency or thalassaemia (an inherited condition that destroys red blood cells). Many other conditions can also lead to low levels, including some cancers, chronic inflammatory diseases and various infections. Liver, blood circulation and intestinal problems can also lead to the poor absorption of iron, which in turn will cause lower than normal hemoglobin levels.
MONOCYTES X1000/UL (0.15-1.35)
These are a type of white blood cell and react as part of the autoimmune system defense mechanism against chronic infection, bacteria, inflammation and foreign particles. When the monocytes level is high, it confirms a dog is ill and has been for some time. Any disease that produces inflammation will trigger monocytes to increase in number. Mild to extreme stress and corticosteroid medications can also trigger an increase. Much rarer, but nonetheless of significance, monocytic leukemia can also make levels high. There are no known reasons why a low reading might occur, even though it occasionally and unaccountably does in some otherwise apparently healthy dogs.
PACKED CELL VOLUME (PCV) 37% – 55%
This tests the percentage of blood that has red blood cells in it once plasma as been separated out. Low PCV readings invariably lead to a diagnosis of anemia. The symptoms of anemia are rapid breathing, a lack of energy and pale gums. In severe cases, anemia can lead to coma, organ failure, hypothermia and death. An emergency blood transfusion is usually suggested, if the level of PCV falls below 20%.
There are a huge number of ailments and infections that create low PCV readings and secondary testing is always taken to narrow the possibilities down. It is common for younger dogs with low PCV levels to have substantial flea infestation or intestinal hookworms, though any problem that causes bloody diarrhea can lead to a low PCV (because younger dogs simply haven’t enough iron stored in their bodies to replace lost blood). In older dogs, the problem might be from an immune system condition, liver disease, bone-marrow disease, cancer or chronic kidney failure. Internal bleeding (resulting in low PCV counts) can be caused by an overdose or sensitivity to aspirin, Rimadyl or other NSAIDs given to treat arthritis or for pain relief. The ingestion of rodent poison or anything containing zinc will also lead to internal bleeding and a low PCV.
Raised PCV levels are more unusual, but not uncommon when a dog is dehydrated. In rare cases, bone marrow cancer and other bone-marrow problems can raise the RCV count. This can be caused by a prolonged starvation of oxygen, such as might occur with circulatory and cardiovascular disease or lung conditions – or when a dog has been living in high-altitude regions.
Greyhounds and some other sight hounds have a normal PCV of 55% to 65% compared with most other breeds.
PHOSPHORUS (2.6 - 6.8 mg/dL)
Together with BUN and Creatinine, an abnormal phosphorus level is the primary diagnostic indicator of chronic kidney failure in dogs. Most (85%) of phosphorus is stored in bones, but a small amount circulates In blood as phosphate ion. The latter is crucial for nerve function and muscle contraction. A dog’s kidneys control the level of phosphorus circulating in the blood and prevent the level from rising too high. This function of the kidneys is controlled by the parathyroid gland hormone (PTH). When the kidneys fail, phosphorus levels progressively begin to rise.
High phosphorus levels in middle-aged and older dogs are almost always connected with kidney failure.
Phosphorus and calcium act in partnership in a healthy dog’s body. When things go wrong, one of the levels becomes high and the other almost always goes low. It is crucial to sustain a healthy balance, as together these minerals act to maintain growth and structure of the skeletal system. Processed manufactured dog foods usually have the appropriate ratio of these minerals, but when an owner decides to produce home cooked food (for all the right reasons and with the best of intentions), the ratio is harder to achieve.
In younger dogs, kidney stones and the resulting blocked urinary tract, inherited genetic defects affecting the kidneys, kidney infections and ingested poisons (notably anti-freeze and rodent-control poisons) can all cause phosphorus levels to rise. Bone tumors or any disease or health issue that affects bone structure, uncontrolled diabetes and any trauma or illness that destroys tissue or muscle can also increase levels.
Blood flow problems, heart disease and parathyroid gland abnormalities can reduce phosphorus levels. Phosphate binders, Cushing’s disease and corticosteroid medicines can all cause phosphorus levels to fall below normal. In addition, a dog that takes insulin or glucose by injection or is being prescribed the diuretic furosemide or is receiving a low vitamin D diet may also suffer from low phosphorus. Hypothermia and some genetic kidney defects can also cause blood phosphorus levels to drop below the normal range.
PLATELETS X 100000/UL (2-9)
Platelets are the primary blood clotting mechanism in a dog’s body. When a dog presents a problem of excessive bleeding, this is one of several tests worth undertaking. Unexplained anemia and blood in the urine are also good reasons for undertaking this test. There are rare events that can lead to the platelet count being high and these include a fracture, cancer, blood vessel injury and inflammation of the digestive tract, pancreas or liver. When a pet has Cushing’s disease, platelets can increase due to raised cortisol levels. In most cases seen by vets, the platelet count is low – and there are multiple reasons why this might occur. These include shock, severe trauma (including blood loss), bone marrow problems, bacterial toxins, anaphylactic allergic reactions and autoimmune system disease. Some medications and antibiotics, including skin fungal treatments for ringworm, can reduce platelets too.
RED BLOOD CELL COUNT (RBC) (5.5 - 8.5 X 100,000/L)
This refers to the erythrocyte count. The cause of abnormalities is the same as Packed Cell Volume and Hemoglobin levels. In the main, low readings point towards anemia and iron deficiency. Severely low readings suggest hemorrhage, bone-marrow disease, vitamin B12 deficiency, parasites, copper or folic acid deficiency. High levels indicate polycythemia (which can be an emergency situation if severe). It is worth mentioning that if anemia is suspected, it will present itself with pale gums, a lack of energy and increased breathing. It is also worth pointing out that while the RBC count above is normal for the majority of dog breeds, greyhounds and some other sight hounds have a normal RBC of 7.5 – 9.0.
RED CELL DISTRIBUTION WIDTH (RDW) (14 - 19 percent)
For red blood cells to pass smoothly through all the blood pathways of a dog’s body, they need to be uniform and small in size. The RDW test checks this and assesses whether too many are variable in size. A high result means there are too many variably sized red blood cells circulating and this gives a vet some idea of why anemia might be occurring. By combining this test with other relevant blood tests, a vet can then narrow down the potential cause to one or more different types of anemia. Among the causative possibilities are chronic intestinal problems that produce vitamin B12 deficiency and/or folic acid deficiency. An iron deficiency can also cause high RDW results.
Reticulocytes are the youngest red blood cells in a dog’s blood when compared against the older and larger volume of erythrocytes. The reticulocyte test is never really undertake on its own, but is instead compared with a Packed Cell Volume (PCV) count and other relevant test levels. The most common reason for having a reticulocyte count is to establish the type of anemia a dog may be suffering from. When anemia is present, the reticulocyte level will ordinarily be higher than normal. However, when there has been substantial and prolonged blood loss with consequential anemia, the reticulocyte number will be low (due to iron deficiency and/or an inability for the bone-marrow to create enough new red blood cells to make up for the blood loss). Non regenerative, low-reticulocyte anemia can be caused when a dog consumes lead-content materials, so it is worth recognizing this and making sure dogs cannot get at or chew anything containing this metal (including older water pipes, roof flashing materials, batteries, electrical cord and some older painted surfaces in the home).
SEGS X1000/UL (3.6-11.5)
SEGS is an abbreviation for segmental neutrophils, which are the more mature white blood cells responsible for fighting infection. While a high result can suggest infection, low readings indicate sepsis (harmful bacteria and their toxins, usually resulting from an infected wound).
SODIUM (140 - 153 mmol/L)
There are several minerals contained in a dog’s blood, but sodium is the most common. It is digested as salt and broken down into two different electrolytes: sodium and chlorine. Sodium is found in blood, while potassium is found in tissue cell structure. These both work together, so when sodium levels are high, potassium levels are usually low, and vice versa. Sodium is important to maintain blood pressure and for normal nerve and muscle function. The level of sodium in a dog’s body is controlled by the hormone ‘aldosterone’, which is produced by the adrenal glands. Aldosterone communicates directly with the kidneys and influences them to conserve sodium or allow more sodium to evacuate the body in urine. Some forms of kidney disease can cause sodium levels to rise (but see below).
High levels can also be due to severe dehydration (though in this case the amount of sodium in the body remains unchanged, it’s just the concentration of the blood that is different). Corticosteroid medications (such as prednisone), Cushing’s disease, diabetes insipidus, an excessive use of laxatives and salty foods in the diet can all produce high sodium results.
In end-stage chronic kidney failure, when kidney function is seriously undermined, sodium levels can fall. Low sodium levels are also common with prolonged vomiting and/or diarrhea. Addison’s disease, poorly controlled diabetes mellitus, diuretics including furosemide and liver disease are also likely to reduce sodium levels to below normal.
T4 (1.0 - 4.7 ug/dL)
T4 is one of two major hormones produced by the thyroid gland. The T4 test is one of several that can help identify hypothyroidism, which involves an under-active thyroid gland in dogs. A decreased T4 level points towards hypothyroidism, but a complete thyroid function evaluation needs to be performed to confirm other possible conditions are not causing the low T4 first. A Free-T4 test is not the same as a T4 test (the first is performed in a laboratory, while the latter is usually performed by a veterinary practice). The Free-T4 test is usually much more accurate, but it tends to take longer to get the results back. It is useful to mention that some medications (notably phenobarbital) can also reduce T4. Sight hounds normal T4 is always a third to a half lower than other breeds. Sight hound breeds include Greyhounds, Salukis, Afghan hounds, Whippets, Borzois, Irish Wolfhounds, Pharaoh hounds and Ibizan hounds.
High T4 levels are rare and it usually means there is a tumor in the thyroid gland, when it is found in a blood result. Dogs under a year old sometimes have a slightly elevated T4, but this ordinarily balances out as the dog matures.
TOTAL BILIRUBIN (0.0 - 0.4 mg/dL)
Red blood cells only live for about three months in the blood, which is why they are constantly replaced. Bilirubin is the residue of hemoglobin, which is left after the red blood cells die or are destroyed. Bilirubin is processed and transported by the liver into bile and then eventually excreted in the feces and/or urine. The total bilirubin test can help identify if the gallbladder and ducts are blocked or if some other problem is affecting the liver. Bilirubin is the yellowish color sometimes seen in the white of a dog’s eyes, on the inside of the ears and in bruising of the skin.
Chronic liver disease and jaundice will cause bilirubin levels to be high. Gall stones or any condition affecting the gallbladder and obstructing bile will also tend to raise the level. Poisons that affect the liver will make bilirubin readings high (moldy corn sometimes found in dry dog food will almost certainly have a toxic reaction in the liver). High counts are also occasionally seen with pancreatitis, leptospirosis infection, some blood parasites, toxoplasmosis (parasitic infection) and autoimmune disease – though these are rare cases.
There are no commonly known reasons why a dog’s bilirubin level should fall below normal.
TOTAL PROTEIN TP) (5.2 - 7.8 gm/dL)
The total protein result is very important, because it indicates a kidney or liver problem and can help identify the severity of dehydration. It can also suggest chronic inflammation or infectious disease when the dog’s globulin (one of the proteins in blood) level is known. In older dogs, a raised total protein count can be indicative of an immune system tumor.
Hookworm infection is a common reason why the total protein level might be low. Food substance sensitivity, chronic intestinal inflammation, chronic liver and pancreatic problems can all cause the total protein reading to be reduced. Dogs that are not getting enough high-quality protein in their diet and those with kidney failure might also suffer from low total protein in the blood. Developing heart failure can also be suggested by a lower total protein count due to poor circulation.
Greyhounds and some other sight hounds tend to have a naturally lower TP level (4.5 – 6.2).
WHITE BLOOD CELL COUNT (WBC) (6.0 - 17 x 1000/L)
White blood cells are the ground soldiers of the autoimmune defense system of the body. When there are not enough of them in the blood, the dog is susceptible to infection. A high result usually means there is some form of tissue destruction, inflammation or infection, which can include certain cancers. The general rule of thumb is the more white cells there are in the result, the more severe the infection or underlying disease. Kidney and liver disease raise the level because of toxins accumulating during organ failure. Consumed toxins and bone-marrow abnormalities will have a similar effect.
One of the biggest problems faced by veterinarians is that many pets become anxious, afraid or over-excited when they visit them for blood to be drawn. When dogs are in this state, their white blood cell count may become artificially and temporarily high. It is important for owners to try and calm their dog as much as is possible to overcome this complication. Young dogs and those that are pregnant and/or in labor tend to have higher than normal levels.
Following a sudden and excited production and release of white blood cells, there can be a reversal of this event where the white blood cell count falls dramatically below normal. This can be due to poor bone-marrow exhaustion, poor production of the cells or due to a disease or other problem associated with the bone-marrow. Canine hepatitis, viral infection and parvovirus all cause the white cell level to decrease. It is questionable whether clomipramine (Clomicalm, given foranxiety) causes the white cell count to drop in dogs, as it does in humans receiving the drug. Ehrlichia infection, spread by ticks, is known to cause low WBC counts in dogs.
Grey collies can suffer from a genetic disease called hematopoiesis, which can cause white blood cell numbers to drop every 11-14 days. Greyhounds and other sight hounds usually have a normally lower WBC count (3.5 – 6.5).