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

Would you like to comment?

  1. Boodie is probably due for a checkup!

  2. Yes, those tests sure are important, not fun, but important!

  3. Yearly blood work is very important.

  4. Angel hates the vet so very much, I have to weigh the stress on her against the need for a visit.

  5. That's very interesting ! Those tests are important, and it's important to understand them. Purrs

  6. With all of us, the mom has become pretty good at interpreting blood chemistry panels.

  7. I'm so glad I stopped by! Our vet does a screen that doesn't have nearly the information this one does.

  8. Thanks for doing this. I've often wondered what some of those things on my cats' test results mean.

  9. Thank you for sharing this information about what all the different blood values mean. It's hard for me to believe that cats are considered seniors as young as age 8, especially when I've got an 18-year-old sitting here in my lap looking as healthy as ever. But cats do age at different rates based on genetics, environment, diet, etc.

  10. I think they need to revise the age category thing - cats are living so much longer and healthier now. Plush just turned 8 and I don’t see him as a senior. Treeno’s 13 and I’ll grudgingly call him senior if I have to say so. Midnight is 15 and still in good health. I’ve had cats live into their 20s so 8 is still young to me.

  11. A great post. Senior cats are as valuable as any and every adult or junior cat, and I agree 1,000,000% that a cat needs a wellness check annually. As you say, indications showing up in a blood panel allows you as an owner to take rapid action if necessary or be reassured that your cat is well for another year.

    I also wonder, along with Holly, about the age at which a cat can be called a senior. This is not a criticism, but a cause for real thought in the veterinary community I think. Cats are living longer and they have access to medicine that is progressing in huge leaps almost as fast as we blink. Thought provoking.

  12. TBT just does whatever the VET says to do. Makes life easy for him. He drags us to the VET, she does whatever she wants, he pays, we go home. Sometimes a return trip for teef-cleaning... He just goes and picks green-papers off the money-tree and doesn't worry about it...

  13. I think it is so important to learn how to understand and review your pet's blood work every time they are tested. Quite often it brings up questions the veterinarian might fail to address. I always go over all bloodwork thoroughly and insist on explanation for any value that is off.

  14. What a great reference post to help understand what the blood work shows as well as the normal ranges.

  15. Definitely it’s in the past in the annual check ups with the blood panels. Can’t say enough good things about them, as they have helped us as our pets age. But it is shocking to think of a senior pet as being eight years of age. It’s feels like they need a middle age bracket!

  16. Mom says, "Thanks for the information of the different types of vitamins and what they can indicate." I get blood work twice a year when I go in for a dental cleaning. Mom has my next cleaning scheduled for January. UGH!


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