How To Read Your Dog's Test Results

Your veterinarian may order several tests to monitor your pet’s general health or to diagnose specific conditions.  In this post, we want to take a look at some of the tests your dog may have gotten and what the results may mean.

Knowledge of the various tests will not only empower you to make informed treatment decisions on your pet’s behalf but also help you prioritize which tests to get if you can’t afford them all.  You can save time, money, and know how to react if things are not good in particular tests

Standard tests conducted at veterinary clinics

1. Physical examination

Do you ever wonder what goes on after your dog is taken back for his or her wellness visit?  The first thing your veterinarian or his or her staff will likely do is to administer a physical examination.  During this comprehensive procedure, your veterinarian will:

  • Listen to the lungs
  • Feel the lymph nodes
  • Listen to the heart
  • Take vital signs
  • Examine eyes, mouth, ears and feet
  • Examine scent glands
  • Conduct a thorough check for any muscular or joint issue
  • Look for any abnormality in the bones

2. Fecal tests

A fecal test is the most common test vets will ask you to get for your dog. The fecal test is a microscopic examination of a dog's poop to look for parasites. Many puppies can get these parasites from their mother's milk, and these tiny creatures are not visible to the naked eye.

The fecal test is vital for dogs of all ages. If there are tiny parasites in a dog's body, they can infect other pets and even humans. A dog living with parasites can also suffer from terminal illnesses and severe medical conditions. That's why regular fecal exams are essential.

3. Blood tests

A complete blood count (CBC) test will help the vet identify the blood cell count and any abnormalities. It also helps identify the start of any organ failure, like the liver, and determines the decreasing functionality of body organs. Veterinarians typically prescribe the CBC test at least bi-annually.

In addition, before spaying or neutering your dog, the veterinarian will require a blood test to ensure that your dog can manage the general anesthesia, and that there will be no complications during the surgical procedure.

4. Urine analysis 

A urine analysis can help identify kidney stones or bladder issues. The most painful conditions, UTI or kidney stones, can remain undetected without this test. The urine analysis will help determine the progression and/or severity of infection, kidney issues and stones.

What some of the results may mean?

Complete Blood Count (CBC) Test Results

This CBC test provides objective information to the vets regarding the dog's health condition. The following information will help you understand what your dog is going through if there is an abnormality in any of the following:

a. Red Blood Cell (RBC) Parameters


An increase in these markers probably means the dog is suffering from dehydration or a disease that causes RBC to go up such as absolute polycythemia (indicating a problem with blood marrow, kidneys, COPD or sleep apnea).

A decrease in these markers suggests anemia and a low ability of blood cells to carry oxygen.

MCV (mean cell volume)

An increased reading suggests the presence of anemia in the body.

A decreased reading means iron deficiency or severe blood loss.

MCH (mean cell hemoglobin)

The high amount of MCH or MCHC (mean cell hemoglobin concentration) is the outcome of hemolysis (red blood cell destruction).

A decrease in these markers suggests anemia and blood loss.

b. White Blood Cell (WBC) Parameters


An increase in white blood cells can be because of stress, inflammation or excitement. But a decrease may indicate bone marrow failure, a severe condition requiring swift treatment.

NEU (neutrophils), MONO (monocytes), EOS (eosinophils), LYM (lymphocytes)

Any increase or decrease in these parameters is associated with stress, inflammation and/or leukemia.

c. Urinalysis

Specific gravity

This test identifies the hydration status and the dog’s ability to concentrate urine (a condition known as hyperstenuria).

GLU or glucose

High or low GLU means the respective sugar level in the urine.  High glucose levels may lead to or indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes in your dog.  Low levels may indicate hypoglycemia.


KET indicates the breakdown of lipids.  If this marker is elevated it may mean diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious complication of diabetes.  Low levels of this marker indicate normal ketone levels.


A high level of urobilinogen is an indicator of kidney disease.

d. Blood Chemistries

CREA (creatinine)

An increase in CREA suggests a kidney disease, while any decrease in this chemical means overhydration in a dog's body.

ALT (alanine aminotransferase)

Increased ALT indicates liver cell damage.

BUN (blood urea nitrogen)

Decreased BUN is the result of overhydration. Increased BUN is associated with kidney diseases, shock and heart diseases.

Na+ (sodium)

Increased blood sodium in the blood indicates dehydration, while a decrease suggests diarrhea or vomiting.

Final thoughts

Next time when you get the test results, read them with care and act accordingly. Your timely measures can save the life of your pet and will help you invest the right amount of time and money at the right time. The early diagnosis of the disease can be lifesaving, and you won't have to spend hundreds of dollars on late treatment.