Laboratory testing is very important in veterinary medicine. Since our patients can’t tell us what is bothering them, we rely heavily on the person who is closest to them, you! A physical exam is done to check for the things that we can see. We do a “12 Body System Check” comprehensive exam to get started. The things that we are looking at include a body condition score (1-5, 3 is normal, 1 is emaciated and 5 is morbidly obese). Then we check out your pet’s coat and skin, eyes, ears, nose and throat, teeth and gums, legs and paws, anal sacs, heart, lungs, abdomen, and nervous system. Depending on what is found during this physical exam along with the history that you provide, the doctors at Shelley Drive Animal Clinic may suggest lab work. Lab work can include blood work, urinalysis, fecal float/smears, or cytology. Not only can lab work help diagnosis a problem it can also rule out a problem. It also can provide a baseline value for your pet for future reference to see if they are getting better or worse. Below are listed some of the things that we are able to test for in the clinic along with what it means.
- CBC (Complete Blood Count) - This test is done to evaluate your pet’s overall health and can be helpful in diagnosing a wide variety of diseases. Some things that it can help diagnosis include infection, anemia, immune-mediate diseases, and certain cancers. It measures the individual cells that make up the blood like red blood cells (carry oxygen to the body), white blood cells (fight infection), hemoglobin, hematocrit and platelets (clotting cells).
- Blood Chemistry Profile - This includes many different tests that help to show the doctor how well certain organs are functioning in your pet’s body. They include kidney function, liver function, blood sugar, multiple proteins test, pancreatic enzymes, muscle enzymes, gallbladder function, and electrolytes or salts. These results are then used to make a diagnosis, develop a treatment plan, prescribe proper medications, and possibly suggest a certain diet.
- Urinalysis - The urine can reveal so much about what is going on in a particular patient. Typically, we will obtain a urine sample directly from the urinary bladder using a very tiny needle. This is called a cystocentesis and is guided by the ultrasound. The main reason for collecting the sample in this manner is to ensure the most sterile sample available. Free catches and catheterizations will contaminate the sample with bacteria and artifacts (junk). Many problems can first be identified in a urine sample such as urinary tract infections, urinary stones, sugar in the urine (as in Diabetes), ketones, and much more. Certain prescriptions require urinalysis to monitor how well they are working. Sometimes, for medication monitoring, the doctor will tell you that a free catch sample is adequate.
- Fecal Testing - Fecal samples may either be floated in a saline solution or viewed directly on a microscope to look for intestinal worm eggs or single celled protozoan. Sometimes seeing the stool can help determine if there are any digestive issues.
- Heartworm Testing - Heartworm tests are run as part of your dog’s annual exam. This test uses a very small amount of blood to check for an antigen that the adult heartworms produce. It can also check to make sure that preventatives are working. In some instances, a heartworm test that includes a screen for multiple tick-borne diseases may be done.
- Thyroid Testing - Thyroid testing can be useful in diagnosing either Hyperthyroidism (most commonly seen in cats) or Hypothyroidism (most commonly seen in dogs). This test also is done after thyroid medication is started to monitor for therapeutic levels. A basic T4 in done in clinic but sometimes the doctor may wish to see a more detailed report, especially in dogs where the veterinarian suspects hypothyroidism. This blood would be sent to an outside laboratory for testing.
- Vaginal Cytology and Progesterone Testing - Vaginal cytology and progesterone testing are important tools to breeding and reproduction. Both tests provide different types of information that help predict ovulation timing, the best breeding dates, when they come in and go out of their heat cycle, and the predicted due dates for natural deliver or C-sections. We offer both in-house and can typically get results back within 30-60 minutes. We have a new analyzer that can give exact numerical results for progesterone levels now.
- Skin Scrapes - Skin scrapings help diagnose different skin conditions like mites, bacterial infections, and fungal infections. A small area of skin is scraped and then those cells are transferred to a microscope slide. Sometimes the slides will be stained and others will be viewed without stain.
- Ear Stain/Cytology - Ear infections are common in nearly every breed of dog. Things that may contribute to ear infections include what shape the ears are, are they big and floppy, do they have a lot of hair in them, does this animal spend time in the pool or lake, or does this pet have allergies? An ear stain allows the veterinarian to see what is in the ear on a microscopic level such as mites, bacteria, or yeast. This test helps the doctor decide what medication is best to treat the infection with.
- Fine Needle Aspirate - A fine needle aspirate maybe taken of nearly anything. It can be a growth on the outside of the skin or an ultrasound guided aspirate of a mass in the liver. These samples can be very useful for diagnosis and prognosis. Cells are removed from the area in question and then put onto a microscope slide which is strained. Then the doctor will look under the microscope to identify what cells are present and provide a diagnosis. In most cases that is done in the clinic. However, sometimes the veterinarian will suggest sending the slides off to an outside laboratory for a histopathologist to aid in diagnosing. This can help the veterinarian devise a treatment plan for your pet.
While we offer all of the above testing in-house, there are some instances where samples may need to be collected and sent to an outside laboratory. We are partnered with several state-of-the-art laboratories that allow for a wide range of testing.