Why is routine blood work important?

There is a reason most veterinarians recommend routine blood work. I do it all the time, especially in my older patients. The advantage of doing this was evident only 10 days ago on my own cat. CC, a beautiful three year old calico Selkirk  , was due for her annual checkup. She seemed absolutely fine, happy and playing, eating very well. Her weight remained stable; she is a small cat despite her prolific appetite.


I don’t really know why I did a CBC on her. She had blood work last year when she had a mild issue. Her white blood cell (WBC) count was slightly elevated, I treated her with antibiotics and about a week later her count was down at recheck.


Last week her WBC count came back wildly elevated. Honestly, I was shocked that a cat that appeared so healthy had a value of over 40, 000 (normal is 3,500- 16,000.) When I look at values like this, I think of serious infections somewhere in the body. That evening, I took her home and segregated her from the other pets and started her on antibiotic therapy. It was important for me to be sure she was doing as well as I had thought. In a household with a lot of pets, I was worried that I had missed something. As it turned out, she really did seem fine. She took her antibiotics like a trooper. Never missed a crumb on her plate and was eager to play.


After nine days on the antibiotics, I packed her up for a trip to the hospital for a recheck on her blood. I was anxious, worried that the results would not be what I wanted. But, today, the results were back and CC’s WBC count was less than 20,000, a dramatic decrease in just over a week. I am so relieved. My plan is to continue her antibiotics for another week and recheck again.


In reality, I could have lost my cat to a terrible infection. My guess is one day I would have noticed she was not herself and then she would have deteriorated very rapidly; at that point, there would have been little I could do to help.


Lesson learned. It never hurts to check the blood.