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Equine Health Resource

Chemistry Panel, Blood Chemistry

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A chemistry panel is a collection of 12-20 individual laboratory tests, each of which assess the level of a variety of enzymes and electrolytes. These values provide information about the function and health of kidney, liver, muscle, blood, intestine and other body systems. Most of these tests require sophisticated laboratory equipment that many veterinary hospitals have in-house, so results are almost immediate. Vets are taught to decipher the results of this battery of tests for use in assessing the functioning of the different body systems.

Blood is collected and the serum (the yellow, clear portion) is separated for analysis using a chemistry machine. Using a variety of different technologies, the substances are quantified and a printout of the values is generated, usually alongside a normal range for each value. The vet assesses this and uses it to inform their assessment of the patient and treatment plan.

Reasons to UseRelated Observations

Depressed, Dull, Sick or Lethargic
Back Spasm, Muscles Feel Swollen, Tense or Hard After Exercise
Bute, Banamine®, NSAID Overdose, Excessive Amount Given
Membranes of Mouth, Gums appear Yellow, Jaundice
Manure is Soft But Not Liquid, "Cow Pie" or Watery (in Adult)
Depressed & Not Eating Right after Intense Exercise
Reluctant to Move or Walk
Blister Beetle in Hay, Horse May have Eaten Some
Head in Corner or Against Wall, Head Pressing
Sores, Crusts, Scabs or Peeling on White Areas of Face
Recurrent Colic Episodes without a Diagnosis
Abdominal Pain, Colic Signs
Not Eating, Loss of Appetite, Not Hungry
Weight Loss, Thin, Losing Weight
Appears Dehydrated
Foal or Newborn, Abdominal Pain (Colic)
Capillary Refill Time (CRT) Prolonged
Cushing's Disease Suspected Based on Appearance
Drinking Excessively
Manure is Watery, Diarrhea (in Adult)
Heart Rate, Pulse Rapid, Greater than 48 BPM at Rest (in Adult)
Urine Amount Seems Excessive
Not Urinating Enough
Urine appears Dark Yellow
Shock, Ears & Limbs Seem Cold, Pulse is Weak & Rapid
Swelling Under Belly or Lower Abdomen
Rapid Breathing Persists Longer Than Normal after Exercise
Suddenly Stops or Resists Moving Forward Under Saddle
Urine appears Red, Bloody or Blood Clots in Urine
Sheath Swelling or Enlargement
Sweating Excessively
Membranes of Mouth, Gums appear Red
Flanks Sunken, Drawn Up
Sudden Collapse or Apparent Loss of Consciousness
Seizures or Convulsions (in Adult)
Noticeably Wobbly or Weak
Eating Slowly, Taking Long Time to Finish a Meal
Foal or Newborn, Under 1 Week Old has Diarrhea
Rat, Mouse or Rodent Bait Ingested, Known to Have Occurred
Ate Cattle Feed, Monensin, Known to have Occurred
Change in Personality, Strange Behavior
Reduced Racing Performance

Benefits

Used in combination with other diagnostics such as the CBC, the results of a chemistry panel assist your vet in narrowing down possible diagnoses and in developing a treatment plan. Like the CBC, this diagnostic may be repeated throughout a treatment course to determine the efficacy of treatment or the progression of the disease.

Limitations

In some cases, these tests are not very sensitive. For example, the kidney tests only change when 75% of kidney function is lost. In most cases, systemic disfunction is indicated but no information is provided as to cause. This diagnostic is best used in combination with others, as it rarely proves a specific diagnosis on its own.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • Why are we running this test?
  • How will this test assist you in reaching a diagnosis?
  • Will it add any information that may change prognosis or treatment plan?
  • Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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