What are diagnostic tests used for?For ill pets, diagnostic tests can help get to the root of the problem more quickly — and thus, get your pet treated and back to normal health faster and more efficiently. The thing about sick pets is, they often have “non-specific” symptoms. That means that something like vomiting could be caused by dozens of different factors, including: eating something that upset their stomach, eating something poisonous, a parasite, an infection, a hormonal condition, or a problem with the liver or kidneys… just to name a few. In that case, certain diagnostic tests can help determine exactly what’s causing the vomiting, so that it can be treated appropriately and your pet can start to feel better!
Why does my pet need diagnostic tests if they’re not sick?While diagnostic tests are often crucial when caring for a sick pet… they can also be very valuable in keeping your dog or cat healthy for the long-term.
Which diagnostic tests does my dog or cat need?This depends on your pet’s breed, age, medical history, and any findings from their physical exam. The most common tests include…
A fecal examThis test is performed very commonly — both for sick pets, and for well pets as part of their routine health checks (since certain parasites can affect humans, especially children, as well as pets).
BloodworkBloodwork can be basic or extensive, and can check for many things, including…
- Heartworm infections - this parasite can damage your pet’s heart, and even be fatal to your pet; and unfortunately, it’s very common here
- Blood cell counts, to look for signs of infection, inflammation, anemia, or other blood disorders
- Blood sugar
- Electrolyte levels
- Organ functions, including the liver, kidneys, and pancreas
- Hormones such as thyroid or cortisol levels
- Cholesterol and triglycerides
- Certain infectious diseases, such as feline leukemia virus, FIV, Lyme disease, and other infections carried by ticks
UrinalysisA urinalysis may be recommended for your dog or cat if they’re unwell, or even as part of a general health check. It gives information about the health of the kidneys and urinary tract, as well as certain hormonal conditions.
Skin and ear testsSkin and ear problems are one of the most common health complaints we see at our hospital. Many are related to food or environmental allergies, but there are lots of other causes, too. Taking a swab or light scrape of the affected area, and then looking at it under a microscope, can help your veterinarian come to a diagnosis more quickly, and determine the best, most effective treatment.
X-rays and ultrasoundRadiographs, or x-rays, give a picture of what’s going on inside the body, and they’re often recommended in cases of illness or injury (such as severe vomiting, or broken bones). But, they may also be recommended at a checkup for your senior pet. The same is true for an ultrasound, which helps us look at the abdomen or the heart… or even monitor puppies or kittens during a pregnancy.
Infectious disease testingThere are special tests that may be recommended if your pet isn’t feeling well. Common examples include the test for Parvovirus infection in puppies, as well as a test for diseases carried by ticks.
Other testsDue to the variety of different medical conditions that occur in pets, we can’t cover every possible diagnostic test here. But, here are two more that are fairly common…
- Bacterial culture - This test helps to determine which antibiotic is most effective for infections, and to prevent antibiotic resistance. It’s most commonly used for urinary tract infections.
- Fine needle aspirates and biopsies - These tests involve taking a sample of a growth, lump, or mass. Then, the sample is evaluated under a microscope to help make a diagnosis and determine treatment.