Monday, April 15, 2019

Wellness Checkup for Cats - Understanding the CBC Results

We've talked about the importance of taking your cat to the vet for wellness checkups in addition to times when she may be ill. A normal wellness checkup will include taking measurements of weight and temperature; examination of the ears, eyes, and teeth; and necessary vaccinations. Many vets will request blood tests for your cat. What do the results of these tests tell you?

Truffle in her Sleepypod® on the way to the veterinary hospital

Your vet may recommend a blood test which includes a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a Blood Chemistry Panel.

The 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 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. 

This post is the first of a two-part series discussing the results of the CBC and the Blood Chemistry Panel.

Analysis of Results

Brulee getting her vaccination at her recent wellness checkup and
the results of her Superchem and CBC blood tests

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

There are several words and acronyms listed on a CBC report. The photo above shows Brulee's recent CBC test on April 3, 2019 during her wellness checkup. What do all of these represent?

There are three main categories in the CBC report: Total White Blood Cells (WBC), Platelets, and Red Blood Cells (RBC).

White Blood Cells (WBC)

The White Blood Cells numbers measures immune cells and tells how many of each type of white blood cells are present and whether the count is normal, low, or high. White blood cells help to fight infection in your feline's body. If there is a severe infection or bone marrow disorders, the white blood cells can decrease. White blood cells can increase if there is inflammation or infection. Cats who have allergies or parasite infections may have increased Eosinophils.
  • Neutrophils (2500-8500). The most common white blood cell in dogs and cats. The neutrophils are the body's "first responders" (Giese, 2015) and arrive quickly to the scene of an injury or infection and release signals to other white blood cells and healing agents to a site of inflammation. An increase may signal an inflammatory response, while a decrease may indicate a viral disease, toxins, or an overwhelming infection.
  • Lymphocytes (1200-8000). The second most common white blood cell in the body that are important for immune response. Lymphocytes are triggered into action when they encounter antigens, which are specific proteins on the surface of an invading microorganism. An increased number could mean there is an immune response which could be related to a vaccination or indicate a fear or excitement response. A decrease in numbers can indicate a stress response or increased levels of cortisol.
  • Eosinophils (0-1000) A type of white blood cell that is particularly involved with defense against parasites, such as heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms. They also play a role in allergic reactions. Eosinophils are increased especially during hypersensitivity responses. 
  • Basophils (0-150)Basophils are similar to eosinophils, but are present in much smaller quantities. They would also increase during an allergic or parasitic response.
  • Monocytes (0-850). Monocytes develop and are stored in the spleen and bone marrow. Monocytes have the ability to "eat" foreign material such as infectious organisms. The monocytes numbers do not vary much unless there is a cancerous leukemia condition.
  • Platelets (190-800). Platelets serve a vital function in the formation of clots. If platelet numbers decrease, it may mean that the body has either used up a large quantity of the available cells in clot formation or that your feline is at great risk if bleed occurs in the future.

Truffle being examined by Dr. Boyette during her 6-month checkup wellness visit

Red Blood Cells (RBC)

The main function of red blood cells is to carry oxygen to the tissues in the body. Oxygen is carried within red blood cells by molecules called hemoglobin. "The metabolism in a cat is geared to protect both the red blood cells and hemoglobin from damage, interference with the formation or release of hemoglobin, the production or survival of red blood cells, or their metabolism causes disease" (Cotter, 2019). Anemia occurs if the red blood cells is too low. Animals can be weak and fatigued is their red blood cell count is low. Polycythemia occurs if an animal has too many red blood cells. Polycythemia causes the blood to become too thick which can impair the ability of the heart to deliver oxygen throughout the body.
  • Red Blood Cell Count - RBC (6.1-11.9)The Red Blood Cells (RBC) measures the number of circulating red blood cells. The RBC may increase with stress. 
  • Hematocrit - HCT (29.0-50.0). The HCT measures the percentage of red blood cells in the blood to help detect anemia and dehydration. HCT may increase with stress.
  • Hemoglobin - HGB (9.3-15.9). Hemoglobin delivers oxygen to the cells and tissues of the body. If your feline has anemia, she will suffer from symptoms related to lack of oxygen.
Your vet should share these results with you when you take your feline in for a wellness checkup (or any bloodwork). It's important to discuss any variances in the results from year to year and any extremes in values. Many vets like to get bloodwork to establish a baseline for future visits. Vets like to have CBC done to better equip them to determine the overall health of your cat. The CBC can help determine if an infection is present and differentiate if it is viral, bacterial, or parasitic (some vets will do different tests to determine the type of bacterial infection to better treat with the appropriate antibiotic.) A CBC can also diagnose or help confirm if other disorders are present, such as allergies, autoimmune diseases, anemia, leukemia, and others.


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.

Foster, Race, DVM. Blood Cells & Complete Blood Counts (CBC) in Animals. PetCoach. 2019. https://www.petcoach.co/article/blood-cells-complete-blood-counts-cbc-in-animals/.

Giese, Melissa. White Blood Cells in Dogs and Cats. Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. July 12, 2015. https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/white-blood-cells-in-dogs-and-cats/.

Ruotsalo, Kristiina. Complete Blood Count. VCA Hospitals.com. 2015. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/complete-blood-count

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

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

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

Would you like to comment?

  1. Good info, thanks! What calm sweet girls, no panicking at the vets - good little ones!

  2. I so remember all this when we had our Little Bit. It was good to know if she was okay or not and what we could do if the counts were too high. We did what was needed.

    Have a fabulous day and week and thanks for this valuable information. ♥

  3. That was quite interesting and such good girls!

  4. mum used to do lab stuff on humans many years ago so she understands this stuff. When they called with Derby's numbers she knew they were bad. So she could make the decision on what to do when the VET man called.

  5. The mom knows all about CBC and Blood Chem results since we get our bloods checked about every 6-8 weeks.

    1. Our mom has become more aware since the girls are getting their blood checked more regularly now. There were some concerns with Brulee's recent bloodwork, so that got her researching.

  6. What an informative post! My human has always been a bit clueless about all those numbers.

  7. Interesting. How did you get girls into sleepypod carrier? Good info to know. Thanks

    1. It's really easy to get the girls into the Sleepypod. Having the ability to unzip the entire top makes it so much easier to put them in and then zip it up.

  8. Great resource for an often overwhelming concept.

  9. It's good do know why we need to get our blood work done! Luckily, both of ours is purrect. Thanks for breaking it all down for us.

  10. Excellent post. I always get copies of lab results sent to me and try to look them up online.

  11. Awesome info! I don't have a cat but I get blood word done on my dogs every year. I never really knew what each of the individual numbers meant until one of my dogs had high kidney values. I spent SO much time actually going through and learning what every value on the tests meant. Luckily my pup is fine. This would be a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about kitty blood values.

  12. We got something like this when Harvey had a senior panel done. It's good to have information set out so clearly and helpfully. Thanks a million!

  13. Thanks for such a comprehensive breakdown of what all those strange looking words and numbers mean!! Sadly I hear from many dog parents whose vets don't take the time to explain what the test results mean. I like the graph I get so it's easy to see what's low, high and normal.

  14. Ah, we just went for Cookie's wellness exam last week. I'm so used to looking at blood work. I was very happy with what Cookie's looks like.

  15. Nelly will be getting her blood work done next month, this is a good primer to help me understand the results.

  16. Lots of great info explained here! Having a dog with epilepsy for many years, I became quite familiar with reading his bloodwork reports and comparisons to previous. I still have them! Great post. Pinning to share with others.


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