Can a blood test tell me if my cat has cancer?
Unfortunately not. Although there are many tests developed in humans to detect specific cancers, these are not really present as screening tests in cats. Blood tests performed will typically give an indication of overall health of a patient, or localise a problem to an organ such as the kidney or liver.
Will my cat require any preparation before the test such as fasting or having the test at a certain time?
Some tests require special preparation such as fasting or timing (e.g. phenobarbitone levels or thyroxine hormone levels) however we will advise you if this is required. If you are not sure, just ask us.
How long will it take for my cat to have a blood test performed?
That depends on the type of test and your cat! Some samples can be obtained immediately, however sometimes cats are less anxious if they have a sedative given, this can take a little time (e.g. 1-2 hours). Some tests such as hormone testing are required to have multiple samples taken a few hours apart. If these tests are the ones being performed your cat will stay in the hospital in a comfy kennel with bedding and fresh water (and food depending on the type of test) while the samples are obtained.
Will my cat need sedation for a blood sample and what can I expect?
- Some cats get anxious on the way into the hospital or when we try to keep them still to obtain a blood sample. We may recommend that your cat has a little sedation prior to blood sampling. This is not because it hurts, but just to keep them calm.
- Sometimes this is a capsule that you give them at home prior to travelling or it can be given as an injection once they have arrived at the hospital. These sedatives only last a few hours and your cat should be back to normal by the time they are ready to go home.
- Elderly cats can sometimes take a little longer to return to normal and may be just a little bit wobbly when they are walking.
- We recommend that any cat that has been sedated stays indoors for 24 hours afterwards as their reaction times maybe a little slow!
What happens when my cat has a blood sample taken?
- Usually the blood is taken from a vein in their leg or their neck.
- A small amount of fur is clipped and we apply some local anaesthetic cream to numb the area. This takes about 20 minutes to take affect but we find it very helpful for the cats and they react much less.
- The cat is then gently held and a needle inserted into their vein. This is rarely painful and with the local anaesthetic cream, most cats don't even notice.
- Sometimes we even feed cats while we are obtaining a sample as this distracts them from what we are doing!
- A small amount of blood is collected and put into one or more tubes for analysis.
- After the needle is removed, we will sometimes place a small bandage to keep pressure on the site, but this can be removed when you take your cat home if we have not already done so.
Will my cat feel faint after a blood test?
No. If they have been sedated they may still be a little wobbly, but not from the blood sample itself.
Are there any risks from having a blood sample?
No, for most cats it doesn't hurt and the most common side effect can be a little bit of bruising at the site. This is often more obvious in elderly cats with blood pressure problems.
What are the different types of blood tests that can be performed?
There are many different types of blood tests. Your veterinarian may order more than one test at a time but we will discuss with you which tests we suggest and why.
Some common blood tests include:
- Blood glucose test - helps identify diabetes
- Full blood count - assess red and white cell numbers. This helps identify anaemia or signs of infection.
- Kidney function tests (e.g. urea, creatinine, SDMA)
- Liver function tests (e.g. ALT, ALKP, AST, GGT, TBil)
- Thyroid function tests (e.g. Total T4, TSH)
- Blood tests to check blood clotting (e.g. ACT, APTT, PT)
- Blood tests to check the levels of certain elements and vitamins
- Ionized calcium
- Vitamin B12
How long do blood test results take?
- It depends on the test. Tests we assess in the hospital are received on the same day. Most tests submitted to the external lab are received within 36 hours, however more specialised tests can take 10-14 days - particularly if sent interstate or overseas.
- We will let you know when you can expect your test result and will call you when we receive them.