Absolute retic count


To determine the adequacy of the regenerative response in dogs and cats, absolute reticulocyte counts can be calculated. This is the method used at Cornell University for determining the adequacy of a regenerative response as it takes into account the severity of the anemia but does not make assumptions about a “normal” hematocrit or correction factors for reticulocyte release. The reticulocyte percentage alone is not as useful as it does not account for the severity of the anemia. The absolute reticulocyte count is calculated automatically in our laboratory from the reticulocyte % in dogs and cats (whenever a reticulocyte count is automatically added to a hemogram or a reticulocyte count is requested for a sample that also has a red blood cell [RBC] count). To calculate an absolute reticulocyte count, we use the following formula:

Absolute reticulocyte count (thou/µL) = reticulocyte % (#/100) x RBC count (mill/µL) x 1000

or (even easier)

Absolute reticulocyte count (thou/µL) = reticulocyte % x RBC count (mill/µL) x 10

Outlined below are guidelines for assessing the degree of regeneration in anemic dogs and cats, along with examples of using the results. Remember that cats have two different types of reticulocytes, aggregate and punctate. Only the aggregate reticulocytes are included in a reticulocyte count (as they are the most immature and more reflective of current bone marrow production).

Degree of Regeneration
Canine Reticulocytes
Feline Aggregate Reticulocytes (thou/µL)
Inadequate or no regeneration
< 95
< 60
> 300
> 200


For example, a dog with a hematocrit (HCT) of 15% and a RBC count of 1.5 mill/µL has a reticulocyte count of 3%, which is above our reference interval of 0-1.5%. Based on the reticulocyte percentage alone, you would consider the severe anemia is regenerative, however the absolute reticulocyte count is 45 thou/µL (3/100 x 1.5 x 1000 or 3 x 1.5 x 10), which indicates inadequate or no regeneration based on the above table. This indicates that the bone marrow is not responding appropriately to the severe anemia (as long as the bone marrow has had sufficient time to respond, i.e. 3-5 days) and that decreased production of erythrocytes is contributing to the anemia (i.e. the anemia is multifactorial) or is the main cause of the severe anemia. In contrast, a different dog with the same low HCT of 15% and RBC count has a reticulocyte count of 8%, which is also above our reference interval. The absolute reticulocyte count is 120 thou/µL (8/100 x 1.5 x 1000 or 8 x 1.5 x 10), which indicates a mild regenerative response and you would consider causes of blood loss or hemolysis for the severe anemia.