In our ongoing series about how and why your pet’s doctor chooses laboratory tests, and what the results mean, we continue our look at the Chemistry Profile. Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read about the Complete Blood Count (CBC). Click here to read about urinalysis.
Glucose. Everybody knows glucose. It’s also known as blood sugar. Problems can occur when it’s too high or too low. Rarely is low glucose, hypoglycemia, a problem in adult animals, though it can be deadly in kittens and puppies.
Hyperglycemia, or elevated blood sugar, on the other hand, is not uncommon, and is our best indicator to confirm clinical suspicions of diabetes mellitus, the most common form of diabetes in man and animals. As with people, diabetes is a very treatable condition.
Cholesterol. Everybody knows cholesterol. While cholesterol usually doesn’t cause plaque and obstructions in arteries as it does in people, it can be a good indicator of other problems, such as low thyroid function and an growing problem in pets: lipemia.
Lipemia is the presence of fats in the bloodstream that are there in excessive amounts. Pets with this problem can usually be controlled with a low fat diet, but some may need cholesterol-lowering drugs. Failure to control the lipemia can lead to seizures and inflammation of the pancreas, a digestive organ that also produces insulin.
Inflammation of the pancreas is a fairly common presentation, and most commonly occurs when a pet has gotten into fatty foods he wasn’t supposed to have access to, such as from the garbage can. Two enzymes are used to measure damage to the pancreas. Lipase is a pancreas-specific enzyme, while Amylase is produced by the pancreas and the digestive tract. The pancreas can be very inflamed, even fatally inflamed, without either of these enzymes being elevated beyond normal ranges.
Protein measurement is an important part of the chemistry panel. Albumin is an important protein that is produced by the liver. Low albumin levels can be caused by failure of the liver to produce enough, or it may be caused by loss of albumin through the intestines or kidneys or both. Low albumin levels can lead to osmotic balance problems in the blood, as well as failure to carry adequate calcium in the bloodstream. High albumin levels occur in dehydration and, rarely, in cases of overproduction of the protein.
Another important protein measured in the chemistry panel is globulin. Globulin is actually a combination of several proteins, and is an indicator of activity in the immune system.
Bilirubin is commonly a measurement made in chemistry profiles. It can be a measure of a liver’s ability to perform a usual daily liver function. Bilirubin will also be elevated when bile is unable to flow out of the liver and into the intestinal tract through the bile ducts. In that condition, a liver enzyme, Alkaline Phosphatase (mentioned above) will usually also be elevated.
Next time in “At The Laboratory With My Pet’s Doctor”, we’ll look into the urinalysis and culture of the urine.