When your veterinarian orders a complete blood count, this test evaluates red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets present in your cat’s blood. The results, however, extend beyond three lines of numerical values. One reason is that there are multiple types and measurements of these blood cells.
A Virtual Army of Immunity
There are five different types of leukocytes, or white blood cells, circulating through your cat’s blood, each with a unique job to do in the quest to maintain immunity and combat invading infections and allergens. The five types are neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, monocytes and lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are associated with immune function. There are three types of lymphocytes, but most standard blood analyzing machines group them all together as one value that is referred to as absolute lymphocytes.
What Do the Numbers Mean?
The absolute lymphocyte value represents the total number of these cells per volume of blood. There is also a percentage result, which indicates the portion of lymphocyte cells within the total leukocyte count. While neutrophils are the largest component of the total white cell count, lymphocytes come in second. The normal range of absolute lymphocytes for a cat falls between 1,200 and 8,000, while 20 to 45 defines the normal percentage range. Abnormal results may be indicative of illness. However, a mild elevation can result from your kitty’s stress response if she is less than keen on having her blood drawn.
The High and Low of Lymphocyte Counts
Abnormal lymphocyte counts typically result because the body’s immune system has been stimulated to respond and fight. Lymphocytosis means that the lymphocyte values are high. Significantly elevated lymphocyte counts can be indicative of leukemia as well as other illnesses, including hemobartonella, IBD, hyperthyroidism, fever of unknown origin and cholangiohepatitis. Lymphocyte values that are low, referred to as lymphopenia, can accompany prolonged periods of stress, use of steroidal medications and FIV. Cancers, such as lymphoma and lymphosarcoma, can drive the lymphocyte values either up or down.
Just One Piece of the Puzzle
The absolute lymphocyte count in your cat is just one piece of the puzzle. It does not tell the veterinarian her complete health story. If the number is abnormal, he will assess the other values of the blood cell count and the chemistry profile, as well as consider her overall physical condition. More specific tests may be warranted. Once your veterinarian puts all of the diagnostic pieces together, he can determine a diagnosis based on the big picture. Routine blood panels that include a complete blood count are instrumental in monitoring your cat’s health, catching problems early and providing your feline friend with prompt and effective treatment.