Biochemical Profile in Cats

A biochemical profile is a blood test that assesses the function of internal organs, measures the electrolytes such as blood potassium, and identifies the levels of circulating enzymes. A biochemical profile is indicated in any ill cat. The test is often done prior to anesthesia to evaluate overall health and ability to take certain anesthetic drugs. A biochemical profile may be useful in the apparently healthy cat as part of a general health screen. For example, in the elderly cat, some diseases can be identified in the earliest stages, permitting prompt management. There are no real contraindications to performing this test, but care should be taken if the pet has a tendency to bleed excessively.

What Does a Biochemical Profile Reveal in Cats?

A biochemical profile will reveal signs of organ disease in the kidney or liver. This test can also help diagnose various problems with body metabolism, and help your veterinarian to recognize certain hormonal (endocrine) diseases. In cats with urinary problems, vomiting, diarrhea, glandular problems, and cancers, the biochemical profile is very important. For example, specific deficiencies or excesses in blood sodium, potassium, or calcium can become life threatening and require prompt management. In other cases the biochemical test results will indicate a problem and prompt your veterinarian to recommend other diagnostic tests to diagnose the underlying condition.

How Is a Biochemical Profile Done in Cats?

As with a person, blood must be obtained from a superficial vein with a sterile needle and collection syringe or container. Either the external jugular (neck) vein or a superficial leg vein will be sampled. The pet is held gently by an assistant and positioned to allow access to the vein. At a minimum, the hair is wetted with alcohol to better reveal the vein. A small bit of hair may need to be clipped over the puncture site, especially in pets with long hair or small veins. After obtaining the blood sample, the puncture site is gently pressed to insure there is no excessive bleeding or swelling. This inspection also should be done at home since rarely the puncture site may continue to ooze blood under the skin, especially in pets with fragile veins or clotting problems.

After the blood sample is drawn it is placed immediately into a special glass tube. Most laboratories use serum to perform the test, and in this case the blood sample must be separated into component parts. The sample is first allowed to clot in the glass tube and is then placed in a centrifuge to separate the sample into the watery serum layer and a blood clot. The serum is removed and submitted to the lab for analysis. Many veterinary hospitals have biochemical profile machines and can perform the test in the clinic. Other veterinarians rely on outside reference laboratories. The analysis is done using an expensive and sophisticated computer device that determines the amount of specific chemicals, enzymes and proteins in the blood.

A biochemical profile generally takes about 40 to 60 minutes to complete, once the blood has reached the laboratory. Results are typically available in 6 to 24 hours.

Is a Biochemical Profile Painful to Cats?

Any pain involved is associated with the collection of the blood sample. A small needle is used to pierce the skin and enter the blood vessel. As with people, the pain experienced from a hypodermic needle will vary among individual animals. In most cases it is a brief “prick” and many pets don’t register any obvious response to the procedure.

Is Sedation or Anesthesia Needed for a Biochemical Profile?

Neither sedation nor anesthesia is needed in the vast majority of patients; however, some pets resent the needle stick or the restraint. In these cases, tranquilization or ultrashort anesthesia may be needed to obtain the samples.