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I am not a veterinarian or a canine nutritionist.  If you have questions about your dog's blood work, please contact your veterinarian.

Sharing a Raw Fed Dog's Blood Work Results
Julie Austin Photography

Why I Request Blood Work on My Dogs

I used to think that only raw feeders had blood work done on their dogs.  Since we've taken 100% control over our dogs' nutrition, we needed to do blood work to make sure our dogs are healthy.  This is false – all dogs should have regular blood work done regardless of their diet because this is a great way to see how our dogs are doing, healthwise, and get a heads up on any potential issues so that we can address them early.

So last year, I had my dogs' blood work done for the first time and it's now that time of year again.  At $200 per dog, I take each dog in separately.  Rodrigo and Sydney go in during the winter months; Scout and Zoey go in during the spring months.

Our vet is no longer keeping office hours so we've found new veterinarians and I'm so very excited about Helping Hands Veterinarian Clinic.  Our vets are familiar with raw feeding, don't look at me strangely when I won't vaccinate, and they take the time to explain EVERYTHING to me – I have lots of questions.

What I Ask For When I Want Blood Work

When you're new to blood work, you may wonder “what do I say to the vet?”  Instead of asking for blood work or a blood panel – simply explain that you'd like to have blood work taken and given your dog's age, ask what your veterinarian would recommend.  Let them take care of the rest.  

I handle it this way because we have two dogs who are going to be 8 years old this year and two dogs who just turned four years old.  Our senior dogs were given a senior panel and because we suspected that Sydney had hypothyroidism, a blood test was taken (T4) to test her thyroid health too.

About the Dogs

Below are the results of Rodrigo and Sydney’s blood work.  To make it even more fun, I’m adding the results of my friend’s dog, Major, to the mix.  Major and Rodrigo have similar digestive issues so his mom and I love comparing notes.  And my other friend’s dog,  Puck.  All of our dogs are around the same age; Major is 8 years old, Rodrigo and Sydney will be 8 years old in March.  Puck’s blood work results are from when he was 6 years old, he’s currently 8 years old too.

I’m including multiple dogs because I find that this helps me put the numbers in perspective.  When I’m looking at one dog’s results, it’s easy to panic if the number is too low or too high, even when within the range.

A few things you should know about these dogs:

  • Three of the dogs are rescue dogs, one dog is a full breed rescue, one is a full breed dog that comes from a line of raw fed dogs.
  • Two of the dogs are mutts (Great Pyrenees Mix), one dog is a Labrador, and one dog is an Australian Shepherd.
  • Three of the dogs are male, one is female.
  • The four dogs live in Washington State, New York, and Florida.
  • Three of the dogs were fasted before their blood panel, one was not.

I'm Not a Veterinarian

The explanation/definition of each test was taken from TheDrakeCenter.com.  The order and range are based on Rodrigo’s test results; each lab produces their own report and the range varies slightly.

I am not a veterinarian or a nutritionist.  If you have questions about your dog's blood work, please contact your veterinarian or seek a second opinion from another veterinarian.  This list is not exhaustive; there are more tests that may be done on blood work.  When you see “–” this means that a test wasn't performed.

Chemistry / SuperChem for Dogs

Total protein: This test indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys and infectious diseases.  Range: 5.0-7.4

  • Rodrigo 5.8
  • Sydney 7.0
  • Major 5.6
  • Puck 5.5

Albumin (ALB): This is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage and intestinal, liver and kidney disease.  Range: 2.7-4.4

  • Rodrigo 3.4
  • Sydney 3.8
  • Major 2.7
  • Puck 3.0

Globulin (GLOB): This is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states.  Range: 1.6-3.6

  • Rodrigo 2.4
  • Sydney 3.3
  • Major 2.9
  • Puck 2.5

A/G Ratio: This ratio number is the amount of albumin protein (the most common protein in a dog’s circulation) in your dog ‘s blood divided by the number of globulin proteins in your dog’s blood.  Source: 2ndChance.InfoRange: 0.8-2.0

  • Rodrigo 1.4
  • Sydney —
  • Major 0.9
  • Puck 1.2

Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): Increases in this test may indicate liver, heart or skeletal muscle damage. Range: 15-66

  • Rodrigo 34
  • Sydney —
  • Major 39
  • Puck 54

Alanine aminotansferase (ALT): This test may determine active liver damage, but does not indicate the cause.  Range: 12-118

  • Rodrigo 28
  • Sydney 20
  • Major 132
  • Puck 38

Why the ALT May Be High

I'm adding a little more context for numbers that fall outside of the range to inspire questions when you speak with your vet.  Please remember that the range is different on each of the blood panel results, I noted the range on Rodrigo's panel only.

Traditionally, veterinarians usually think of liver and bile duct disease.  But pancreatitis, IBD, and diabetes in dogs can also elevate ALT levels.  In dogs, Cushing’s disease can be responsible. Exposure to toxins, certain medications and corticosteroid administration can also elevate your pet's ALT level.

Heartworm disease or its treatment with Immiticide, hemolytic anemias, insufficient oxygen (hypoxia), metabolic disorders, over-exertion, severe body trauma and all the diseases that cause elevated AP can also elevate your pet's ALT levels.

Mild increases in ALT can also occur in pregnancy.

Significant gum/dental disease in your dog can also moderately elevate its ALT levels. The NSAIDs given long term to dogs to treat arthritis (eg Rimadyl®, Deramaxx®, Previcox®, Metacam®, etc.). After the pet's teeth are cleaned and antibiotics given; or the NSAID discontinued, It can take up to three weeks for ALT elevations due to either of those two causes to return to normal.  Source: 2ndChance.Info

Alkaline phosphatase (ALKP): Elevations in this test may indicate liver damage, Cushing's disease or active bone growth in a young dog.  Range: 5-131

  • Rodrigo 16
  • Sydney 14
  • Major 67
  • Puck 44

Gamma Glutamy transferase (GGT): This is an enzyme that indicates liver disease or corticosteroid excess.  Range: 1-12

  • Rodrigo 1
  • Sydney —
  • Major 6
  • Puck 5

Total bilirubin (TBIL): Elevations in this test may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia.  Range: 0.1-0.3

  • Rodrigo 0.1
  • Sydney 0.3
  • Major 0.3
  • Puck 0.1

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): This test determines kidney function. An increased level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver and heart disease as well as urethral obstruction, shock or dehydration.  Range: 6-31

  • Rodrigo 25
  • Sydney 20
  • Major 25
  • Puck 15

Creatinine (CREA): This test reveals kidney function and helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of an elevated BUN.  Range: 0.5-1.6

  • Rodrigo 0.5
  • Sydney 1.1
  • Major 1.1
  • Puck 1.1

BUN/Creatinine Ratio: This test provides your veterinarian ideas as to why a dog’s blood urea nitrogen level, or BUN, might be high.  Dehydration, when the test was taken, may result in a high ratio, however, that isn’t the only cause.  A low ratio may be seen in a dog that isn’t eating, that is malnourished, is in advanced liver disease, or in late pregnancy.  Source: 2ndChance.InfoRange: 4-27

  • Rodrigo 50
  • Sydney —
  • Major 22.7
  • Puck 15

Why BUN/Creatinine Ratio May Be High

I'm adding a little more context for numbers that fall outside of the range to inspire questions when you speak with your vet.  Please remember that the range is different on each of the blood panel results, I noted the range on Rodrigo's panel only.

Age-related loss of kidney function (glomerulosclerosis) is the most common cause of a high BUN in pets. I see as much of this kidney disease in shelter dogs and cats as in pampered pets. Over the years, veterinarians have suggested that antigen/antibody accumulation (immune complexes), amyloidosis, high protein diets or even leptospirosis might be the root cause of kidney decline over time. While that may be occasionally true, no one is entirely convinced that your pet's lifestyle and disease exposure account for the great majority of failing kidneys that veterinarians see. It's not much different in us humans.

But there are other ways a pet's kidneys can be damaged. Sudden or ongoing kidney infections can definitely cause long-term injury to those organs. 

Pets that are dehydrated (due to vomiting, diarrhea, heat prostration, lack of water, fever, diabetes etc.) can have high BUN values as well. In those cases, the pet's creatinine level is more likely to remain normal. Considered together, in the BUN: Creatinine ratio, veterinarians can usually determine if your pet has a kidney or a dehydration problem.  Source: 2ndChance.Info

Phosphorus (PHOS): Elevations in this test are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism , and bleeding disorders.  Range: 2.5-6.0

  • Rodrigo 3.4
  • Sydney 4.1
  • Major 3.3
  • Puck 3.7

Glucose (GLU): Glucose is a blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures or coma.  Range: 70-138

  • Rodrigo 101
  • Sydney 96
  • Major 77
  • Puck 105

Calcium (Ca): Changes in the normal level of this test can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium.  Range: 8.9-11.4

  • Rodrigo 10.0
  • Sydney 11.2
  • Major 9.0
  • Puck 9.3

Sodium (Na): Sodium is an electrolyte often lost with signs of vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease and Addison's disease. This test helps indicate hydration status.  Range: 139-154

  • Rodrigo 149
  • Sydney 146
  • Major 146
  • Puck 149

Potassium (K): This is an electrolyte typically lost with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison's disease, dehydration or urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest.  Range: 3.6-5.5

  • Rodrigo 4.4
  • Sydney 4.4
  • Major 4.2
  • Puck 4.5

Chloride (Cl): Chloride is an electrolyte that is typically lost with symptoms like vomiting or illnesses such as Addison's disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration.  Range: 102-120

  • Rodrigo 119
  • Sydney —
  • Major 116
  • Puck 119

Cholesterol (CHOL): This test is used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing's disease and diabetes mellitus.  Range: 92-324

  • Rodrigo 246
  • Sydney 291
  • Major 159
  • Puck 268

Triglycerides:  The level of triglyceride and cholesterol in your dog's blood tend to increase and decrease together. When one or both are high, your dog is said to have hyperlipemia. That situation is normal after a meal (lipemia). But when it persists throughout the day, problems such as nerve and vision difficulties, seizures, pancreatitis and fatty skin patches (xanthomas) can develop.  Source: 2ndChance.Info.  Range: 29-291

  • Rodrigo 38
  • Sydney —
  • Major 41
  • Puck 37

Amylase (AMYL): Elevations in this test indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.  Range: 290-1125

  • Rodrigo 501
  • Sydney 513
  • Major 660
  • Puck 489

Complete Blood Count for Dogs

White blood cell count (WBC): This test measures the body's immune cells. Increases or decreases in the WBC indicate certain diseases or infections. Range: 4.0-15.5

  • Rodrigo 10.5
  • Sydney 11.14
  • Major 9.8
  • Puck 14.5

Neutrophils (NEU):  This test measures the number of neutrophils in a dog's system; their job is to protect your dog against bacteria; the travel through the bloodstream to the site of the infection where the bind to eat bacteria and other unwanted agents they encounter.  Source: 2ndChance.InfoRange: 2060-10600

  • Rodrigo 8190
  • Sydney  8620
  • Major 6439
  • Puck 12180

Why Neutrophils May Be High

I'm adding a little more context for numbers that fall outside of the range to inspire questions when you speak with your vet.  Please remember that the range is different on each of the blood panel results, I noted the range on Rodrigo's panel only.

High levels of neutrophils occur in many infections. But other forms of inflammation, such as wounds and surgery can elevate their numbers as well.  Sudden stress that stimulates your pet’s adrenal glands to liberate corticosteroid and epinephrine also raise neutrophil numbers (stress leukogram).

Autoimmune and allergic reactions can liberate chemicals (inflammatory cytokines) that cause high neutrophil numbers as well.  Corticosteroid medication (eg prednisone) can also elevate neutrophil numbers.

On rare occasion, a pet's continuing high neutrophil numbers are due to a tumor of the stem cells that produce them in the bone marrow (myelogenous leukemia).  Source: 2ndChance.Info

Granulocytes and lymphocytes/monocytes (GRANS and L/M): These are specific types of white blood cells.  LYM Range: 690-4500 | MON Range: 0-840

  • Rodrigo 1155 | 630
  • Sydney 1270 | 540
  • Major 2636 | 421
  • Puck 290 | 435

Why Lymphocytes May Be Low

I'm adding a little more context for numbers that fall outside of the range to inspire questions when you speak with your vet.  Please remember that the range is different on each of the blood panel results, I noted the range on Rodrigo's panel only.

Low lymphocyte numbers occur most commonly after pets receive corticosteroid medications or when their adrenal glands produce too much cortisol (Cushing’s disease).  Less reliably low numbers (lymphopenia) occurs early in parvovirus infection in dogs and in panleukopenia of cats or after prolonged periods of stress.  Low lymphocyte counts, sometimes accompanied by fever, are also a common finding in cats with FIP.

Your pet's blood lymphocyte numbers can also go down when lymphocytes are lost into retained fluids (chylothorax) and in immune system malfunctions. Dogs and cats with significant kidney disease often have lower than normal blood lymphocyte numbers as well – probably due to a build-up of toxic waste products in their bloodstream. 

Some of my clients have been concerned that their elderly pet's lymphocyte counts report back from the lab as somewhat low. I do not know of any studies in cats or dogs, but lower lymphocyte counts are a normal result of the aging process in us humans.  Source: 2ndChance.Info

Eosinophils (EOS): These are a specific type of white blood cells that may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions.  Range: 0-1200

  • Rodrigo 525
  • Sydney 550
  • Major 284
  • Puck 580

Basophils (BAS): These are a specific type of white blood cells and an overabundance is rare; when a dog's basophil numbers are above normal, it is often in conjunction with an increased number of eosinophils (see above), which are associated with allergies.  Source: 2ndChance.InfoRange: 0-150

  • Rodrigo 0
  • Sydney 0.17
  • Major 0.02
  • Puck 0

Red blood cell count (RBC):  This test measures the total number of red blood cells per volume of blood and is used to detect anaemias, a condition where a dog has fewer red blood cells than normal, and other disorders of red blood cells.  Range: 4.8-9.3

  • Rodrigo 6.9
  • Sydney 8.53
  • Major 5.68
  • Puck 6.1

Hemoglobin and mean corpulscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are the oxygen-carrying pigments of red blood cells.  There are 7 types of anaemia and this test helps to narrow down the type. HGB Range: 12.1-20.3 | MCHC Range: 30-38

  • Rodrigo 16.5 | 35
  • Sydney 18.5 | 34.5
  • Major 14.2 | 34.4
  • Puck 16.1 | 33

Hematocrit (HCT): This test measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and hydration.  Range: 36-60

  • Rodrigo 48
  • Sydney 53.56
  • Major 41.3
  • Puck 48

Platelet Count: This test measures the cells that help to form blood clots.  Range: 170-400

  • Rodrigo 227
  • Sydney 233
  • Major 398
  • Puck 230

Thyroid Test | Total T4

I thought Sydney had hypothyroidism, however, she tested in the high level on the Total T4.  While this test is usually not sufficient to determine hypothyroidism, when a dog tests high, no further tests are usually needed.  Below are two videos about these tests and what other tests may be necessary should you think your dog has hypothyroidism, which is a condition in which the thyroid gland isn't producing enough thyroid hormone slowing down a body's metabolism.

Thyroxine (T4): Thyroxine is a thyroid hormone. Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs.  Range: 0.8-4.0

  • Rodrigo 1.0
  • Sydney 3.9
  • Major 1.8
  • Puck —

Dr. Karen Becker and Dr. Jean Dodds

Koranda Wallace

Understanding a Dog's Blood Work Results

When it comes to understanding my dogs' blood work results, I'm happy that I have veterinarians who call me the next day and go over the numbers line by line, answers all of my questions, and we don't get off the phone until I understand.  So far, all of our calls have started off with “Rodrigo is doing great!” – which is nice because although I'm doing my best to keep my dogs healthy, shit happens, which is why I order blood work – so we can get ahead of the shit, clean it up, and move on.

Following up that call with the vet with my research and a second opinion from a friend who is also a veterinarian (BIG THANK YOU to Cathy Alinovi DVM and Lauri Coger DVM for allowing me to a take advantage of their knowledge and experience) can help you with subsequent questions that come up.

I created this post comparing multiple dogs to show you that although all of these dogs are raw fed and near the same age, the numbers don't always align because every dog is different.  Not all blood panels are the same, you can see that Sydney's panel didn't cover areas that Rodrigo's panel covered.  I'm not an expert, a veterinarian, or nutritionist – I'm a raw feeder who finds this information fascinating and believe that it will help me raise healthier dogs.

If you have questions about blood work, please contact your veterinarian.

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