Reading the Blood Chemistry Panel: An Art and Science
Mark Hitt, DVM, MS, a veterinary specialist (Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine - Specialty of Internal Medicine) practicing with the Atlantic Veterinary Internal Medicine group in Annapolis, Maryland, underscores the value of utilizing the Blood Chemistry Panel by citing an interesting case. The successful management of this dog’s medical difficulties would have been doubtful if a chemistry panel was not performed.
Hitt goes on to state that statistically about 1 in 20 tests may be abnormal without truly being relevant. In other words, a dog may have, for example, a higher than normal liver enzyme value for long periods of time and yet be a healthy individual.
"The medical significance of an abnormal test result," Hitt said, "can only be assessed by the veterinarian when the patient, patient history, and degree of value change are kept in mind. And, if a test result is considered significant, it may lead to additional tests for either confirmation of a problem’s significance to the pet or for further information relating to the concern."
Suggestions for Dog Owners
Whenever you find yourself in the veterinarian’s office with a sick dog, be proactive and ask the doctor if doing a blood chemistry evaluation would be helpful. You’d want it done for yourself, wouldn’t you? And expect that a blood chemistry profile would be required prior to any elective anesthesia or surgery. You’d be surprised how many elective procedures are put off until the reason for a previously unnoticed medical problem is evaluated.
Many animal hospitals are providing annual Older Pet Evaluations where results of blood and urine testing are vital in making a proper health evaluation of the patient; so if your dog is eight years of age or older an annual physical exam with laboratory tests can be a very rewarding practice.
An informal survey shows that for a routine blood chemistry panel the dog owner might expect to pay from $17.50 to over $60.00. One reason for the variation in price is that some chemistry panels check for a wider array of values than others. The price reflects the veterinarian’s time and costs in collecting, sending, interpreting the results and a discussion of the report with the dog owner.
Always ask what the cost is but do not be reluctant to have this extremely important laboratory evaluation done. Dr. Hitt adds, "Remember, the most value from a chemistry panel may be obtained when combined with a urinalysis (UA) and a complete blood count (CBC)." The science is necessary for the art to work properly!
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