October 2, 2017

Medical Issues

Baseline blood work – have it done when your pet is healthy!

by Joanne Clark

Today, I learned the importance of having a baseline blood work history on my dog.  Many pet owners don’t see the need in having blood work done on a healthy animal.  In reality, that is the perfect time to run the tests that could give you answers you need down the road.

The Symptoms

black lab


When I woke up this morning, Ellie was acting very strange.  She moped around like she had thrown up somewhere or pooped on the carpet.  Her head hung low, and she avoided eye contact.  Why was she acting this way?

Thankfully, there were no “deposits” on the floor.  We continued about our morning routine.  I took Ellie outside to go potty, but she was not interested in sniffing the ground or searching for rabbits like she usually does.  She crept back to the door almost immediately.

Once inside, Ellie proceeded to lie down with her head between her paws. To make matters worse, she did not want to chase her tennis ball.  She always wants to chase her tennis ball.  Always!

I thought, if nothing else, breakfast will make her snap out of it.  I feed Ellie dehydrated food from The Honest Kitchen.  Whenever she is waiting for the food to re-hydrate, Ellie drools like Pavlov’s dogs.  Ellie never met a meal she didn’t like!

This morning, however, Ellie doesn’t wait by the counter while I prepare her food.  She lies still with her head between her paws looking sad.  I set the bowl on the ground, and Ellie doesn’t even move.  This is the first time since Ellie has lived with us that she has turned her nose up at food of any kind.  Even when I try to encourage her to eat, Ellie has no interest in her breakfast.  Now I’m worried.

The Exam

Because I am fortunate enough to work at Countrycare Animal Complex, I bring Ellie to work with me so a veterinarian can evaluate her.  The minute we get to Countrycare, Ellie starts acting normal.  Nonetheless, Dr. Barr does a thorough examination of Ellie from head to tail.  He can’t find a thing wrong with her, but he offers to run some blood work on her to see if something is happening internally.  I agree to the tests, as I am anxious to see what they reveal.

The Blood Work

“Blood work” is a general term for tests run on blood samples from a pet.  There are many different types of tests done on blood samples. Blood tests can reveal heartworm disease, thyroid problems, pancreatitis and much more. However, separate tests have to be run with each sample. A heartworm test will not test for pancreatitis. Some people think that their veterinarians can test for everything with one blood sample, but that is not the case.

Dr. Barr orders a Chem 12 and Complete Blood Count (CBC).  The Chem 12 may provide a more complete picture of what is happening inside Ellie’s liver and kidneys. The CBC can alert us to infection or anemia that may be present.

The Lab Results

baseline blood work

CBC results

I wish I could tell you that the blood tests revealed the answers I wanted, but I can’t say that.

Her lymphocytes and her platelets are slightly below the normal range.   Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that might indicate cancer. Platelets help blood clot.

Does Ellie’s blood usually run low in lymphocytes and platelets, or is something causing those elements to be lower than normal right now?  Because I don’t have any blood results on file for Ellie, we can’t answer that question.

In addition, Ellie’s neutrophils are above the normal range.  Neutrophils are a type of white blood cells that are “first responders” to infection. Neutrophils can indicate infection, but they can also signify extreme stress.  I can guarantee that Ellie is experiencing “extreme stress” this morning.  The question is, what is Ellie’s normal percentage of neutrophils? Again, without having a baseline to compare this to, we don’t know.

The Diagnosis

Not surprisingly, it is difficult to determine what is wrong with Ellie.  By now, she is acting completely normal.  No more symptoms.  Inconclusive blood work.  Now what?  We wait and see.

I do know that when she is feeling healthy, we will be back for a baseline blood test. In the future, we will know what “normal” looks like. Then, if we need to run more bloodwork, we’ll have a better understanding of what is happening in Ellie’s body.


Joanne with her Black Lab mix named Ellie

Joanne with her Lab Mix, Ellie


Joanne Clark is the Communication Coordinator at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She loves all dogs, but her favorite breed is Rescued!