Diagnostic testing is a window into the pet's internal health.
During a physical examination we can get a general idea of an animal's health. It is however, limited to the things we can see, (hair coat, mucus membranes) or the things we can hear, (heart and lung sounds). Many of the vital organs that keep our pet's body running do not give outward signs until disease or illness is in advanced stages. Most of the diagnostics that your pet will experience are the same tests run during a routine human doctor visit.
For seemingly healthy pets, diagnostic tests can detect pre-existing conditions such as anemia or kidney function problems. Also, doing blood work on younger animals gives us a base line with which to monitor and track their health throughout their lives. Small changes can be significant in diagnosing and treating diseases later in life. The doctor may choose to run a simple in-house blood panel, with results taking as little as 20 minutes, or she may decide a more comprehensive panel sent out to the laboratory is required, in which case results usually take 24 hours.
For older or sick animals it is extremely important to run full panel blood screens. Many diseases are present long before a pet shows any outward signs. For sick or senior animals, diagnostic tests are used to diagnose illness and disease, monitor organ degeneration, and monitor response to medication. Depending on your pet's health and stability when you bring him in for a sick exam, the doctor may choose to run an in-house comprehensive blood panel so she can have some basic results quickly to get an idea of what is going on with his internal health. She may also decided to send a full or partial panel to the lab for a more complete picture.
Pre-Surgical Blood Work
Blood work helps us better understand organ function and allow us to foresee problems before an animal is showing outward symptoms. Before surgery, it is important to ensure the pet's internal organs are healthy and able to process anesthesia. In human medicine a battery of tests are run prior to any surgery. The same is required for animals. Since many anesthetic and pre-anesthetic drugs are processed through the blood stream and therefore through the organs, it is important to have results in case adjustments need to be made in the anesthetic protocol for this pet. Failure to perform this testing may significantly affect the success of the anesthesia and the overall outcome of the surgery.
For most pets, the doctor will advise running a simple in-house blood panel to assess mainly liver and kidney function before undergoing anesthesia. For older or ill pets, the doctor may recommend a more comprehensive panel be sent out to the laboratory prior to surgery.
Cytology is a test where we take cells from somewhere on your pet's body and examine them under the microscope. We use this technique most often when diagnosing ear infections or examining lumps and growths. We usually can make a diagnosis using our in-house equipment, but if the doctor sees something especially worrisome she may decide to send the cytology to the laboratory for further testing.
Bone Marrow Biopsy
Bone marrow, the soft inner material found inside our bones, is responsible for blood cell production. Certain abnormalities in blood tests, such a anemia, may require further diagnostic testing such as a bone marrow biopsy. It is also needed to diagnose certain types of cancer such as leukemia. A sample of your pet's bone marrow will be collected from their hip bone, thigh bone, or forearm under sedation or anesthesia. The sample with be sent out to the laboratory so a specialist can examine it.
A urinalysis run in conjunction with a panel of blood work gives the most accurate, well-rounded picture of the pet's health. Urinalysis can also show signs of urinary tract problems, bladder stones, infection, diabetes, and early renal disease. We may do a very basic urinalysis in-house that will tell us things like specific gravity (density) or detect the presence of blood or glucose in the urine.
More likely the urine sample will be sent to the laboratory for a more comprehensive screening. This will determine if there is bacteria, crystals, blood, or any other debris present in the sample. If she suspects a urinary tract infection, the doctor may also order a culture of the urine to be done at the laboratory. This will take several days as the laboratory staff closely monitors the sample for bacteria growth. They will then determine what type of bacteria it is and which antibiotics it is sensitive to or resistant against. This way we can tailor a proper treatment plan for your pet.