A blood chemistry panel evaluates the enzymes that are important to
many organ functions, and also looks at certain proteins and minerals that are
important for normal body functions. Important tests include:
Albumin. This is an important protein made by the
liver. It decreases in dogs with certain types of
liver and kidney damage or intestinal problems, and can increase in dehydrated
ALT. Alanine aminotransferase is a liver enzyme that can increase in dogs
with virtually any liver damage.
ALP. Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme that may increase in dogs with liver
or bone disease, or along with steroid use or Cushing’s disease. It could also
indicate bile problems. Phenobarbital, used to control seizures, may also
increase the levels of this enzyme.
Amylase. This is an enzyme manufactured primarily by the
pancreas and released into the digestive tract to help digest starch and
glycogen. It may be elevated in dogs with pancreatitis,
kidney disease, or steroid use.
AST. Aspartate aminotransferase is an enzyme normally found in red blood
cells, the liver, the heart, muscle tissue, the pancreas, and the kidneys. The
test is used primarily as a measure of liver function. AST levels may also
increase in dogs with heart damage.
Bile acids. These tests are important for evaluating liver function. In
this case, two blood samples are needed: one taken before eating and one two
hours after eating.
Bilirubin. This is made in the liver from old red blood cells. This value
may increase in dogs with liver or gallbladder disease, or with diseases that
destroy red blood cells. Accumulation of this pigment in the body may cause a
yellow coloring or jaundice.
BUN. Blood urea nitrogen is protein waste material made by the liver and
eliminated via the kidneys. A low BUN may indicate liver
disease and a high BUN indicate kidney disease or dehydration.
Calcium. This mineral is very important for muscle and nerve action as well
as bone development. High calcium can be seen in dogs with certain cancers, kidney failure,
certain rodenticide poisonings, and parathyroid problems. Low calcium can be
seen in bitches after whelping and nursing large litters and with some
Cholesterol. This level isn’t nearly as important in dogs as it is in
humans, and is not a factor in canine heart
disease. Still, it is a fat and increases can be seen in dogs with hypothyroidism,
Cushing’s disease, and diabetes, among other problems.
Creatinine. This is a waste product of muscles and is normally removed by
the kidneys. An increase can indicate kidney disease.
CPK or CK. Creatinine phosphokinase or creatinine kinase are different
names for a muscle enzyme that increases with muscle damage, including damage
to the heart muscle.
Glucose. This is blood sugar. Levels are increased in dogs with diabetes
mellitus or Cushing’s disease, and with steroid use. Low
blood sugar may be due to certain cancers, insulin overdose, liver problems
Phosphorus. Abnormal levels of this mineral indicate parathyroid problems,
kidney problems, and possible dietary inadequacies.
Potassium. This mineral is very important for muscle and nerve functions
and for proper regulation of the heart. Kidney failure, an obstructed bladder,
Addison’s disease, and antifreeze poisoning
can all increase potassium levels.
Sodium. This mineral is important for normal muscle and nerve function.
Levels can be affected by vomiting
and by Addison’s disease.
Total protein. This is a measure of the proteins in the blood, including
albumin and globulins (which are associated with infections and inflammations).
High levels can occur in dogs with dehydration or immune stimulation. Low
levels may indicate liver problems.
Otodectic mites are tiny insects that live in the ear canals and
feed by piercing the skin. They are highly contagious to cats and dogs, but not to humans. Ear
mites are the most common cause of ear symptoms in puppies and young adult
dogs. Suspect ear mites when both of the dog’s ears are involved.
Ear mites should not be confused with the mites that cause sarcoptic mange. This is an entirely
different disease, but one whose signs can include crusty ear tips (see
Scabies, page 126).