Services - Diagnostic Procedures
Diagnostic refers to any procedure needed to determine the cause of illness in a patient. Diagnostic procedures may be as simple as performing a physical examination or may require more technical methods of examination.
The most commonly performed diagnostic procedures are:
- Fecal Examination
- Blood Work
- Bacterial Culture
Similar to human medicine, it is often necessary to perform a series of tests or even to repeat tests in order to come to a definitive diagnosis. Since our patients cannot speak for themselves, it is important to explain, as accurately as possible, what abnormalities your pet may be showing in order to help us determine which tests will help us make a proper diagnosis. We have the capability of performing many diagnostic and laboratory procedures "in house." This is important when rapid results are needed. For specialized procedures we use reference laboratories or call upon board certified veterinary specialists.
The term "blood work" incorporates a wide range of test procedures. It includes heartworm tests, blood chemistries, blood count, hormone levels, and other more specialized tests. Blood chemistries indicate how the patient's body is producing, using, and excreting various substances. These are important in diagnosing, treating, and monitoring conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, liver problems and long-term drug therapy. Blood counts tell us the actual number of blood cells in a measured amount of the patient's blood. An increase of the white blood cell portion may indicate an infection or another inflammatory process. A decrease in the red blood cell portion indicates anemia. Care-Pets Animal Hospital has the capability of performing heartworm tests, blood counts, and basic chemistry profiles in-house allowing us to evaluate critically ill patients quickly. For more specialized tests, we use reference laboratories that require the specimens to be sent away. Turn around time for reference laboratories differs depending on the particular test requested.
Radiology (x-rays) allows us to see bone and organ structures inside your pets. With radiographs, we can diagnose broken bones, foreign objects your pet may have swallowed, arthritis, infection or inflammation of organs and bones, and look at the shape and size of various structures. Radiographs aid us in developing a treatment plan or a more extensive diagnostic plan for our patients. We perform most radiographs while the patient is awake and with minimal restraint. However, if the patient's condition requires more precise or difficult positioning mild sedation may be necessary.
Lumps and Bumps
Sometimes "Lumps and Bumps" are easily diagnosed with a simple physical examination, but many masses require laboratory diagnosis. A fine needle aspirate may be appropriate to try to diagnose some of these. In this case, an attempt is made to pull a few cells from the mass, put them on a microscope slide, and have a pathologist at the laboratory identify the cells. This laboratory test is called cytology. At other times, it may be necessary to perform a biopsy. In this situation, a piece of the mass or the entire mass is sent to a pathologist and the tissue is sliced thinly and examined. This laboratory procedure is called histology or histopathology. We usually perform a fine needle aspirate while the patient is awake, but a biopsy often requires anesthesia. Knowing exactly what kind of "bump" your pet has enables us to determine the best treatment plan.
Examination of the urine is helpful in evaluating many disease processes involving the urinary system, endocrine system, liver, and general metabolic balance of the patient. A chemical analysis and a microscopic examination are performed on each specimen. The chemical findings may indicate that the patient is diabetic or is not processing metabolic waste products properly. Microscopic examination of the urine can aid in diagnosing a urinary tract infection, urinary tumors or urinary stones. A fresh specimen, collected as cleanly as possible, ensures a maximum of information can be gathered from the examination. Urinalysis are run as screening tests during annual wellness examinations and are very important any time there seems to be an abnormality in the frequency, amount, or appearance of the urine. Urine should also be examined if there are changes in a pet's drinking habits, or if the pet seems to be having difficulty passing urine.
When bacterial infection is suspected, often it is necessary to identify the specific organism at fault. This requires sending a specimen of the infected tissue or fluid to the laboratory and having them grow and identify the bacterium. Once the bacterium is identified, the laboratory performs a bacterial sensitivity. This checks to see which antibiotic is most appropriate to treat the infection thus affording us the ability to administer the most effective medication. It usually takes 5-7 days to receive a finalized report. While awaiting the results of the culture and sensitivity tests, a medication may be prescribed based on the clinical impression of the problem.
Fecal examinations are recommended yearly to help ensure your health and the health of your pet. We perform fecal examinations with a pet's annual physical examination, any time there is a digestive upset, and during treatment for intestinal parasites. Feces, the waste product from a patient's digestive system, can be examined for the presence of blood or an abnormal bacterial population, but are most regularly examined for the presence of intestinal parasites. The majority of parasites are not excreted as creatures large enough to be seen with the naked eye. Microscopic examination enables us to see very small parasite eggs or intact parasites. Since a significant number of parasites harbored by our pets pose a human health risk, it is extremely important to keep a watchful eye on the pet's parasite status. When collecting a specimen, freshness is important. The specimen should be less than 24 hours old and placed in a sealed sandwich bag or container.