A CBC is a diagnostic test that counts the numbers of red and white blood cells and platelets in blood collected from a vein. The CBC is commonly used in veterinary and human medicine. It is also a routine screening test that is used before surgery to assess general health.
Since this diagnostic is a study of the cells and not the liquid constituent of blood, a blood sample is collected and placed into a tube with an anticoagulant in it. The anticoagulant prevents the blood from clotting and preserves the cells for analysis. Red cell and white cell numbers are counted either manually from a blood smear on a slide, or automatically in a cell counter.
Red blood cell numbers change in various disease states including dehydration and anemia, among many others. White blood cell counts are commonly analyzed to assess inflammation or infection.
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The CBC is a cornerstone diagnostic that is used initially to help determine overall health, and may be repeated throughout a treatment course to determine the efficacy of treatment or the progression of a disease. It is usually performed in-clinic. Results are determined within minutes in most cases.
If this test cannot be performed in-house, there will be a time delay of days due to offsite processing. This can make the test result of less value.
Some of the detailed results that are helpful in small animal practice are not helpful in assessing the health of horses. Red blood cell counts and packed cell volume can be complicated by dehydration.
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