When your pet is sick, you want to find out what is wrong as quickly as possible. In-house diagnostics are a fast and reliable way for the veterinary practice to figure out what’s going on with your pet so that we can provide the appropriate treatment and quick relief. Having the diagnostic tools located on-site means the answers to your pet’s problems may be ready in minutes, not hours or days.
Understanding what the options are will help you and your veterinarian decide on what is best for your pet. A well-educated owner is a pet’s best friend!
Your Role in Your Pet’s Diagnosis
Veterinarians have many tools to diagnose illnesses and injuries in animals, but to decide which ones to use, you need to provide all the information you can. There’s a lot of detective work involved in veterinary medicine since the patient can’t advocate for themselves. As a pet parent, you need to speak for your pet and provide any information that may inform a correct diagnostics procedure.
These are the questions the veterinarian will likely ask:
- Is your pet eating normally?
- Did they eat anything they shouldn’t have?
- Are they vomiting?
- Are they drinking normally? (Drinking too little, or too much can indicate a problem).
- Are they having normal bowel movements?
- If possible, bring a stool sample for analysis.
- Has the animal been less active than usual?
- Are there any other abnormal behaviors?
- Was the animal injured? (Hit by a car, attacked by another animal, stepped on, etc.).
Diagnostic Laboratory Tests – What’s What?
Veterinarians have many different diagnostic tools available to them today. Technology has improved vastly in recent years, making it easier than ever to provide the best care to your pet. Generally, your vet will start with the least invasive test that will provide the answers needed. Many of these tests cause no or very little discomfort to your animal.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to find out what’s going on inside your pet’s body is blood work. Blood is obtained from a vein, usually from your pet’s leg. Your pet will only feel a tiny prick of the needle, for just a second.
What Can Blood Work Reveal?
Blood cell counts can be done quickly and reveal quite a lot. High white blood cells may indicate a bacterial infection, while low white red blood cell counts could mean a virus or an immune system problem. Low red blood cell counts indicate anemia.
Routine blood tests include feline leukemia and heartworm. These tests should be done during your pet’s first wellness visit. If the tests come back negative, cats can be vaccinated for leukemia and dogs can be placed on monthly heartworm prevention.
For older pets, blood analysis can measure how well the kidneys and other organs are functioning. These tests should be done during regular wellness checks. The first test will be used to establish a baseline to compare to if your pet is sick later. Pets should be brought in for wellness checks, once or twice a year, depending on their age and health status.
Much can be learned from examining your animal’s feces. The color and consistency of the feces will yield clues to the pet’s health.
The fecal sample will be examined under a microscope to determine if parasites are present and if so what course of treatment to pursue. Other things the technician will look for include blood in the stool, mucous, and other things, such as pieces of plastic or other non-food items that indicate your pet ate something they should not have eaten.
Examining your pet’s urine can uncover many problems before your pet even shows any symptoms of disease or disorders like diabetes. First, the technician will look at the color, consistency, clarity, and other visual characteristics. Then they will check for the presence of protein, blood, crystals, and other things that should not be found in a healthy animal’s urine.
During your visit or when you make the appointment, ask the veterinarian or staff member how to collect a urine sample from your pet. If you can’t collect it yourself there are other methods for obtaining the urine, depending on the type of animal.
Other Lab Tests
The veterinarian can examine swabs taken from ears or skin scrapings to examine under the microscope. Problems such as ear mites, ringworm, infections, even some cancers can be quickly diagnosed.
Internal Imaging Tools
Radiography, more commonly known as X-Rays can give the veterinarian a look at what is going on inside your animal’s body. Depending on the reason for needing an X-Ray, your pet may need to be sedated so they don’t move during the procedure.
Like most everything else these days, radiology is now digital and the image appears almost instantly! If the images need to be sent to a specialist for further review, they can be e-mailed or otherwise digitally transferred.
Benefits of X-rays
The veterinarian can enlarge a specific area with the click of a mouse and get a clear picture of problem areas.
The veterinarian can look for bone fractures, enlarged organs, tumors, or foreign objects.
What About Radiation?
X-Rays still do require a very low dose of radiation but will not harm the pet, even if they are pregnant. X-Rays can be used to determine how many puppies or kittens are to be expected.
While radiology can give veterinarians a good picture of what’s going on in hard tissue like bones, an ultrasound provides even more details for soft tissues. Ultrasounds can reveal such things as abnormal masses in the body, and tears in tendons or ligaments.
Benefits of Ultrasounds
While X-Rays only provide still pictures, ultrasound can examine the moving parts in real-time. For example, an ultrasound can reveal if there’s a problem in a valve as the heart is beating.
Sedation During an Ultrasound
Your pet may or may not need to be sedated for an ultrasound. If they are cooperative and lie still, they won’t need to be. If biopsies need to be taken, then they will need sedated or put under anesthesia. The staff will handle your pet gently and calmly during the test.
Electrocardiograms, also known as ECG or EKGs are a noninvasive way to gauge your animal’s heart function. Electrodes will be connected to your pet’s legs. The electrodes detect electrical impulses put out by the heart. Usually, the test lasts only for a minute or two. ECGs can detect abnormal heartbeats, abnormal heart rhythms, murmurs, and more.
Thanks to modern technology, veterinarians now have access to a handheld ECG monitor that doesn’t require wires to be clipped to cats. Dogs tend to be more tolerant of the clips.
Endoscopy is a non- or minimally-invasive way to get a detailed picture of what’s inside your animal. At the end of a tiny tube is a very tiny camera. Your pet may have to be put under anesthesia so the endoscope can be inserted into the mouth or the other end to look into the digestive tract, or into the nose to look at the respiratory tract. Sometimes a small incision may need to be made to reach the internal area in question, such as a joint or an organ. The incision is much smaller than what would be needed for exploratory surgery, therefore causing much less pain for your pet.
Endoscopy can be used to examine and take a biopsy or remove some small foreign objects, at the same time, saving your pet from having to be put under two procedures for the same problem.
In-house Tools Provide Answers Quickly!
These tests might be frightening or uncomfortable for your pet but be assured that the veterinarians and staff will be as gentle and soothing as possible. They want your pet to get healthy again as much as you do! Every member of the staff has been thoroughly trained to use the latest and best available technology to diagnose your pet as quickly as possible.
Call the office if you have questions or would like to know more about in-house diagnostic capabilities.