What Does Pre-surgery Blood Work Show in a Puppy?

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Puppies can be especially susceptible to anesthesia due to their developing body systems.
Pre-anesthetic blood work is important to minimize the risk of complications for your puppy. Anesthesia can stress your puppy's body, especially if she has metabolic problems. Your veterinarian may offer different levels of pre-anesthetic blood work. Talk with him about what he recommends as best for your puppy.


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Why Blood Work Is Important

While physical exams are part of routine care for your puppy, evaluation of blood cells and organ function is best done with blood work. Congenital defects are more common in purebred dogs, such as Yorkshire terriers, and blood work can help identify them. Liver shunts or kidney dysfunction can result in death when not handled appropriately. While anesthetic complications still may occur with normal blood work, the chances are decreased. The information provides your veterinarian with information to determine if anesthesia should be postponed or if further diagnostics are necessary.


Blood Cell Counts

A complete blood count evaluates red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. If your puppy is anemic, he has fewer red blood cells than normal, which means he has a decreased ability to transport oxygen. Many puppies are mildly anemic, but if their red blood cells are too low, anesthesia should be postponed to prevent complications from decreased oxygenation. White blood cells are increased in the presence of infection and certain cancers. Platelets are involved in clotting, and a bleeding disorder may be present if platelets are abnormal. Basic testing may involve a hematocrit or packed cell volume, which helps show if the animal is anemic or not.


Organ Function Screens

As with evaluating blood cells, different organ function evaluations are possible. Some veterinarians may check blood glucose and kidney function in a healthy puppy. More complete organ function screens check kidney enzymes, blood glucose, liver enzymes and electrolytes. Liver and kidney enzymes are important with puppies due to the possibility of shunts or abnormalities. Your puppy may be hypoglycemic, seen more commonly with young, small breed puppies. Additional blood work may be needed to rule out potential disorders.

Ancillary Tests


Your veterinarian may recommend additional testing for your puppy prior to surgery. If elevated liver enzyme values are present, your veterinarian may suggest blood work checking bile acids. Bile acids can be altered with liver dysfunction, and abnormal values may strongly suggest liver shunts. If kidney enzymes are altered, a urinalysis may be needed to see if the kidneys are able to concentrate urine effectively. With certain electrolyte abnormalities or cardiac problems, your veterinarian may need to perform an electrocardiogram to check your puppy's heart rate and rhythm. Your veterinarian may find other tests warranted in your puppy's case, so always remember to ask questions. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.


By Elizabeth Muirhead

Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital: Blood Work & Diagnostics, Pre-anesthetic
Veterinary Partner: Lab Values

About the Author
Elizabeth Muirhead is a practicing veterinarian with an undergraduate degree in biological sciences. She has real-world experience with the husbandry, grooming, training and feeding a variety of household pets.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.