Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Wellness Checkup for Cats - Understanding the Blood Chemistry Panels

November is recognized as National Senior Pet Month. My two cats, Truffle and Brulee, turned eight years old this past summer, and it's hard for me to accept they may be considered senior cats. I've stressed the importance of taking your cats to the vet for wellness checkups at least once a year in previous posts, but it's even more important they visit the veterinarian on a regular basis since they are becoming older for routine health screenings. Veterinarians recommend bi-annual checkups for senior cats that include blood work, urine analysis, and a full body examination. 

Your vet may recommend a blood test which includes a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a Blood Chemistry Panel which can provide information about your cat's health and diagnose illness or injury. We talked about understanding CBC results in our post about Wellness Checkups for CatsThis post about the Blood Chemistry Panel is the second of a two-part series discussing the results of blood work completed on your felines.

The Complete Blood Count (CBC) provides information about different cell types in the blood and can indicate the presence of many forms of infection, inflammation, and disease, such as anemia and leukemia. A CBC provides information about the three types of cells found in the blood: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets (Ruotsalo, 2015). The Superchem Blood Test (Chemistry Profile) is a comprehensive blood chemistry panel that provides a good overview of many of the body's functions of your feline. Your vet will receive a detailed analysis of these two tests and will combine the information with physical examination findings, your cat's medical history, and other information to assess your cat's health status and determine if additional testing should be recommended. 

Truffle and Brulee waiting for the results of their blood work

Analysis of Results

Our veterinary hospital uses the Superchem Blood Test, which is a comprehensive blood chemistry panel that provides a good overview of many of the body's functions. There is minimal risk from the Superchem and your veterinarian can gain valuable information from the results. A Superchem test is performed through obtaining a small blood sample from your cat. The test is quick (if your cat cooperates) and the sample is sent to a diagnostic laboratory and results are usually available in a couple of days. 

The Superchem measures a variety of chemicals and enzymes in the blood to provide your veterinarian with very general information about the status of organ health and function, especially the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. This test can also show the cat's blood sugar level and quantities of important electrolytes (molecules like sodium, calcium, and potassium) in the blood.

Results of Brulee's recent blood work

The chart in the graphic above shows the results of Brulee's recent blood work. The breakdown of each of the tests and explanation are discussed below. Normal ranges for each test are included in the parentheses.

  • Total Protein (TP) (5.2-8.8). This indicates hydration status and provides information about the liver, kidneys, and infectious diseases.
  • Albumin (ALB). (2.5-3.9). A protein made in the liver that helps elevate hydration, hemorrhage, and intestinal, liver, and kidney disease.
  • Globulin (2.3-6.3). Globulins are a group of proteins in the blood stream that help regulate the function of the circulatory system.
  • Asparate Aminotrasferase (AST) (10-100). An enzyme in the liver that is also present in a cat's heart muscles, brain, and skeletal cells. 
  • Alanine Transaminase (ALT) (10-100). An enzyme found in the liver. The levels can indicate liver damage.
  • Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP) (6-102). A sensitive indicator of active liver damage but it doesn't indicate the cause.
  • Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase (GGTP) (1-10). A high level of GGTP can indicate blocked bile ducts, which can indicate liver disease.
  • Total Bilirubin (TBILI) (0.1-0.4). Elevation with the TBILI may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test can help identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia.
  • Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) (14-36). This test indicates kidney function. An increased blood level can be caused by kidney, liver, heart disease, urethral obstruction, shock, and dehydration.
  • Creatinine (CREAT) (0.6-2.4). These results reveal kidney function. The CREAT test helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN.
  • Phosphorus (PHOS) (2.4-8.2). Elevations of phosphorus are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and bleeding disorders.
  • Glucose (GLU) (64-170). Glucose is blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures, or coma. Sometimes the glucose levels are elevated to a fight/flight response that some cats exhibit in a veterinarian office.
  • Calcium (Ca) (8.2-10.8). Deviations from the normal range can indicate a variety of diseases such as tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin.
  • Magnesium (1.5-2.5). High levels of magnesium in the body can result in serious complications such as impaired nerve impulses, as well as cardiac problems. Low levels of magnesium are rare in cats, but because magnesium is key for absorption of vitamins and minerals, a low level can keep cats from getting appropriate levels in their bodies.
  • Sodium (Na) (145-158). Sodium is an electrolyte that is lost with vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney or Addison's diseases. This test helps indicate hydration status.
  • Potassium (K) (3.4-5.6). An electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration, and urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest. 
  • Chloride (Cl) (104-128). An electrolyte often lost with vomiting and Addison's disease. Elevations may indicate dehydration.
  • Cholesterol (CHOL) (75-220). Cholesterol levels are used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing's disease, and diabetes mellitus. Cholesterol may be elevated and not be significant.
  • Triglycerides (25-160). Elevated levels may result in seizures, blindess, or pancreatiutis. These levels may be elevated if a cat has eaten recently, but are not a significant diagnostic factor.
  • Amylase (AMYL) (100-1200). Elevations show pancreatitis or kidney disease, but the number in the test aren't always significant for cats.
  • Precision PSL™ (8-26). PSL stands for Pancreatic Sensitive Lipase. This test may give some indication for pancreatitis. It's important to understand that there is no single test that can test for pancreatitis. 
  • Creatine Phosphokinase (CPK) (56-529). Elevated CPK levels be seen with muscle trauma, inflammation, or infection. A cat who is suffering from a depressed appetite may also show increased levels of CPK. Higher levels may be a result of the restraint associated with blood acquisition at the vet.
Sweet Praline at her senior wellness checkup

As can be seen in the descriptions above, many of the tests are indicative of a possible problem. The only way to ascertain if there are difficulties is to take your cat in for a wellness checkup on a regular basis (at least yearly). Results of blood tests help veterinarians determine causes of illnesses accurately, safely, and quickly and helps them monitor the progress of medical treatments. Cats are notorious for hiding illness and disease, so you should not wait until your cat is ill to take her to the veterinarian for checkups. Wellness testing and examinations are extremely important for senior cats since there is a greater chance that an older cat will develop a disease or have an ongoing (but stable) condition that needs monitoring. In addition to a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a Chemistry Profile, your vet may also recommend a Urinalysis and Thyroid Hormone Testing.


Blood Analysis and Testing. ANTECH Diagnostics. 2008. EDP200FEMB.

Bloodwork Meanings and Reference Ranges. The Cat Practice. 2019. http://www.thecatpracticepc.com/documents/BloodworkMeaningsrevised.pdf

CBC and Chemistry Profile. November 4, 2011. VetStreet. http://www.vetstreet.com/care/cbc-and-chemistry-profile.

Cotter, Susan M. Red Blood Cells of Cats. MERCK Manual Veterinary Manual. 2019. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/blood-disorders-of-cats/red-blood-cells-of-cats.

Remitz, Jessica. 2019.  Defining Senior Age in Cats. PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/cat/care/defining-senior-age-cats#

Superchem Blood Test. Vetstreet.com. November 4, 2011. http://www.vetstreet.com/care/superchem-blood-test.

Senior Pets. 2019. American Veterinary Medical Association. https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Senior-Pets.aspx.

Understanding Your Cat's Blood Work Results: Chemistry Profile. All Feline Hospital. https://www.allfelinehospital.com/blood-work-explanation.pml

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Caturday Art

It's time to be creative again. I love to take a photo that's not quite purrfect and use various themes, art effects, and filters to make the photograph interesting. It's not often I can get a photo where both Truffle and Brulee are looking at me at the same time and I did, but it wasn't clear and the coloring was terrible. It's time for LunaPic!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Joy of Living with Cats - Bringing Home Brulee

Contrary to what some people may think, cats are independent, fluffy, affectionate animals who can have numerous health benefits for the humans who share their lives with them. Samir Becic (2017) states that cats can reduce stress and anxiety; decrease risks of a stroke, boost immunity, lower blood pressure, decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attacks, lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels, increase sociability, provide companionship, reduce the carbon footprint, and have therapeutic benefits. 
Brulee, Mom Paula, and Truffle on November 5, 2011

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Trick or Treat

It's time for all of the ghosts and goblins to come out at night for Halloween, which includes the famous "trick or treat" phrase spoken by millions of little people as they ring the door in their favorite costumes.

Which would you prefer?


Truffle being her devilish self