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Can a senior dog panel help detect cancer?

Q: My veterinarian recommends that Greta, my 8-year-old beagle, have senior wellness lab testing this year. Will the tests tell me if she has cancer?

A: Senior wellness lab work does not include tests that specifically prove a dog has or is free of cancer. However, certain abnormal test results raise the suspicion of cancer.

For example, Greta will have a complete blood count that measures red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Elevated levels of eosinophils, one type of white blood cell, are associated with cancer but also with parasites and allergies. A low red blood cell count, called anemia, also may suggest cancer.

Senior wellness lab work includes a chemistry panel to evaluate kidney and liver function, antibody and protein levels, blood sugar, cholesterol, electrolytes and more. On the chemistry panel, elevated calcium levels raise the suspicion of cancer.

Your veterinarian will probably do a urinalysis, part of which involves examining the urine under the microscope to look at, among other things, the cells that line the bladder. If they look abnormal or there are too many of them, your veterinarian may suspect bladder cancer.

Female beagles over 6 are at higher risk of bladder cancer than other dogs, so your veterinarian may also recommend testing Greta's urine for abnormal cells using the CADET BRAF test. If Greta's physical exam and lab results are normal, you and she can relax and enjoy your lives together.

Editor’s Note: About half of dogs over the age of ten will develop cancer at some point in their lives. Here we will highlight common cancer warning signs in dogs.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at vet@askthevet.pet

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