What is the lab work for a cat, and how is it done?

Lab work consists of two things, mainly blood work and urine samples. And what we're looking at on our feline patients' are organ function abnormalities, electrolytes, thyroid levels, and various components of the urine sample, urine concentration, and screening for urinary tract infections.

Dr. Katie Tiglio
The Drake Center

How does a baseline lab test impact the health and wellbeing of my cat?

It's good to know where we're starting. So if there are changes in the future, which there likely will be as your kitty gets older, it's good to know where they started. Also, if we start any medications, then it's good to know what the response to those is in the future.

What are some reasons that my cat might need lab work done?

There are many reasons your cat might need lab work done. Baseline lab work is always a good idea to see where we're starting and also if they become sick. Some of the biggest concerns we see in kitties are vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, GI abnormalities, or if they're going under anesthesia for any sort of procedure.

What are some possible cat health conditions that lab work can help detect?

The most common ones we see in kitties are kidney disease (especially in older kitties), hyperthyroidism, and urinary tract infections. Diabetes is also on the list.

What specific things are being looked at while using my cat's blood work? And what can it tell my veterinarian about my cat's health?

So, there are a bunch of different things to examine in lab work. Some values reflect organ function or organ abnormalities. Some are electrolytes, which can go in conjunction with organ function abnormalities. Thyroid level is critical, and our CBC, which is our blood cell count. The CBC checks for anemia and elevations in white cell counts, indicative of inflammation or infection, and urinalysis. So, we're looking for our concentration ability in the kidney and any signs of urinary tract infection.

Is blood work alone enough to ensure a proper diagnosis of a cat's illness?

Not always, but it gives us an excellent starting point. Blood work will provide us with a lot of information about organ function, diabetes, urinary tract infections, and hyperthyroidism. Sometimes we have to add on more lab work to the screening panels to make a further diagnosis. And sometimes, we'll recommend additional imaging like an abdominal ultrasound or x-rays to figure out exactly what's going on.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of cat illnesses using lab work so important?

Well, the earlier we detect it, the better chance we have at managing it appropriately. So, if we catch a problem early, we can start treatment early, we can change our diet early, and it reduces the risk that the kitty is not going to respond to treatment.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Lab Work/Laboratory - FAQs

Dr. Katie Tiglio
The Drake Center

How is blood drawn from my cat?

Very similar to people. We use a needle, and we draw from whatever part in the kitty that is comfortable for them. Most frequently, that's going to be one of their limbs, either the front limb or back limb. If it's more comfortable for the kitty, we might draw from the neck, but it depends on what works for them.

Is the sample collection painful for my cat?

It's about the same as a person. So your furry friend will feel a little prick in the area. But other than that, they don't seem to mind too much.

How is the safety of my pet ensured when getting lab work done?

Kitties are very stressed-out creatures in general, so we always try to minimize stressors as much as possible. We like to keep them in a room by themselves where there aren't any dogs in the background or people that can scare them. We usually have at least two to three people on the case, one drawing the sample, one holding and petting the kitty, and maybe one distracting if we think that it's necessary.

Why might my kitten need lab work done?

A couple of reasons. Most commonly, we do kitten lab work in preparation for their spay and neuter. So we always want to check lab work before they go under anesthesia to make sure it's safe for them. Otherwise, we'd do lab work if there are any signs of illness— vomiting, weight loss, if their appetite is down, and also there's some viral testing we like to do on kittens as well.

Why might my healthy adult cat need lab work done?

Mainly for baseline lab values. We like to track the numbers over time to see if they do get sick in the future where that started and see where those changes happen and how long it took for those changes to happen. We might also get lab work with kittens to prepare for anesthesia, if needed, for a dental cleaning or some other procedure.

Why might my senior cat need lab work done?

We like to do lab work a little more frequently in senior cats because they have a higher incidence of disease, most commonly kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. And again, we need that baseline to see where their numbers trend over time.

Will follow-up lab work need to be done on my cat?

It depends on what the numbers are. Generally, we like to check the lab work once a year, depending on the kitty's age, to see where the numbers are going. And other than that, it depends on what the results are. If you notice kidney disease, we like to monitor those values periodically. If we start on any medication, we recheck the lab work afterward to monitor the response of the medication.

If the cat is sick or there's any change in how they're doing at home, we do lab work. The last thing we consider is some additional tests to our screening lab work. Sometimes we add on other tests like urine culture or extended thyroid panels if it's not completely clear on the lab work what's wrong.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.