WHY IS LABORATORY TESTING IMPORTANT FOR MY PET?
Veterinarians depend on laboratory test results to help them understand the status of your pet’s health. When your pet is sick the result of the laboratory test can help the veterinarian confirm the presence of some illness and rule out others. Your veterinarian may also run tests to track the course of a disease and results of treatments.
When your pet is healthy, your veterinarian may want to run certain laboratory tests to establish your pet’s “base line values”. Usually, these tests include a complete blood count (CBC), a blood chemistry panel, and a urinalysis. When your pet is sick, the veterinarian can more easily determine if your pet is at risk of complications if given general anesthesia. These tests may be recommended for pets of all ages – even for young, seemingly healthy dogs and cats.
HOW QUICKLY WILL I KNOW THE RESULT OF THE TESTS?
Your veterinarian may have laboratory equipment on hand at the hospital. In that case, test results are usually available the same day or even within a few minutes. A veterinary hospital may send some, most or all of its laboratory tests to a commercial laboratory. Results from these laboratories may be reposted the same day, within 24 hours, or days to weeks later, depending on the type of test.
WHAT DOES EACH LABORATORY TEST DO?
Your veterinarian may recommend different laboratory tests based on your pet’s physical signs, breed, age, and sex. We’ve explained the most commonly performed tests here:
COMPLETE BLOOD COUNT (CBC)
The complete blood count measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a given sample of blood. The number and type of these cells give the veterinarian information needed to help diagnose anemia, infections, leukemia, and other blood disorders. The CBC also helps your veterinarian monitor your pet’s response to some treatments.
Laboratory analysis of urine is a tool used to detect the presence of one or more specific substances that normally do not appear in urine, such as protein, sugar, white blood cells, or blood. A measurement of the dilution or concentration of urine Is helpful in evaluating the status of the kidneys. A urinalysis can also assist the veterinarian in the diagnosis of urinary tract infections, diabetes, dehydration, kidney problems, and many other conditions.
Blood-chemistry panels measure electrolytes, enzymes and chemical elements such as sodium. This information shows how various organs, such as the kidneys, pancreas, and liver, are functioning. The results of this test help your veterinarian formulate an accurate diagnosis, prescribe proper therapy, and monitor response to treatment.
If your veterinarian suspects the presence of heartworms in your pet, he or she will recommend testing to confirm the diagnosis. Heartworm testing is also recommended as part of the annual wellness examination, even if your pet is currently on heartworm preventive medication. All heartworm tests require a blood sample.
Your veterinary health care team may examine your pet’s feces to check for the presence of intestinal parasites (such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and giardia) or to evaluate various intestinal disorders. Microscopic examination of your pet’s feces can provide useful information about difficulties with digestion, internal bleeding, and disorders of the pancreas.
Skin scraping is one of the most frequently used tests in veterinary dermatology. After scraping the skin, the veterinarian examines the material collected from the skin under a microscope to confirm the presence of certain types of fungi or parasites.
TEST OF THYROID FUNCTION
If your pet’s thyroid gland is not functioning properly, it may not be producing hormones vital to maintaining normal growth and metabolism, or it may be producing too much hormones. Routine testing includes measuring thyroid hormone concentrations in the blood.
When your pet has a lump or bump, your veterinarian may take a sample by using a sterile syringe and needle to withdraw cells and/or fluid from the bump. The sample is put on a slide, stained with special chemicals to make the cells easier to identify, and viewed with a microscope. The fine needle aspirate is a quick way to diagnose infections and cancer. It can also provide information about whether a tumor is malignant or benign.
If your veterinarian is concerned about the possibility of a fungal infection on your pet’s skin, he will pluck hair samples from your pet. The hair is then sent to a lab to test for the presence of fungal DNA such as seen with ringworm. It takes one to three days to get a final result from the fungal culture.
TEST FOR FELINE IMUNE DEFICIENCY VIRUSES
Your veterinarian may recommend a test to determine whether or not your cat has contracted feline immune deficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FELV). An enzyme-linked immune sorbent assay (ELISA) is commonly used to detect these two viruses, and a blood sample is necessary to perform these tests.
Veterinarians depend on laboratory test results to help them understand the status of your pet’s health. If your pet is sick, your veterinarian may recommend one or more tests based on your pets physical signs, sex, breed, and age. Lab testing is also valuable in determining how your pet is responding to treatment. In addition, your veterinarian may recommend lab testing when your pet is healthy in order to obtain baseline values to be used for comparison at a later time.