understanding diagnostic testing part 2: chemistry panel

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Posted by Dr. Nina Mantione on Jul 06 2012

In my previous blog post on diagnostics, I touched on the usefulness of the CBC, but the CBC only gives us information about blood cells. It does not tell us about the rest of the body’s functions. To evaluate an unwell pet even further, or to screen a healthy dog or cat for hidden problems, another test veterinarians routinely run is a chemistry panel.

The basic chemistry panel gives us information about the liver, kidneys, electrolytes, protein levels and blood sugar. It provides us with a huge amount of information and allows us to rule in or out many diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure and liver disease.

Some basic values are run with any chemistry panel. A BUN and creatinine along with phosphorous levels give us an immediate indication of how well the kidneys are functioning. Elevations of these values may indicate that a pet’s kidneys are not working correctly.

The ALT, alkaline phosphatase, AST and GGT are values that provide us with information about the health of the liver. We can see elevations in these parameters with liver infections, toxins and even liver tumors.

Electrolytes are also found in a chemistry panel. The electrolytes are sodium, potassium, and chloride, and they give us an idea about whether or not an animal is dehydrated. Electrolytes may also be abnormal with different diseases, and can help us to determine whether or not we need to pursue additional diagnostics.

Blood sugar, or glucose, is also measured in a chemistry. An elevated blood sugar is the hallmark of diabetes, while a blood sugar that is too low can be a cause of seizures or a serious infection.

We can use the information in a chemistry profile to evaluate a pet's overall health. There are many conditions that we can eliminate from our diagnostic process with the chemistry panel alone – another valuable clue in helping us to diagnose illness.