We offer a variety of laboratory tests options for your pet both in-house and through partner laboratories. Our in-house lab testing allows us to provide same-day results for patients with more urgent needs. We also use a partner labratory and other specialty facilities to provide our patients with more comprehensive tissue and organ evaluations, bacterial and viral isolation tests, and immunological, histological, and cytological tests.
It is important for owners to understand the significance and value of lab testing if they are recommended as part of your pet’s healthcare plan. The following is a brief overview of commonly recommended diagnostic tests. Depending on results of these initial tests, further testing may be recommended, especially in patients that are unwell.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
The complete blood count is a measure and analysis of red blood cells, several different types of white blood cells, and platelets, which act in clotting blood. An abnormal CBC may be seen in cases involving anemia, infection, inflammation, parasitism, allergies, blood cancers such as leukemia, other bone marrow diseases, and some endocrine disease.
The chemistry portion of the blood work indicates how well organs such as the kidneys, liver, biliary system, and adrenal glands are functioning. Other parameters on a chemistry screen can indicate protein loss through the kidneys or gastrointestinal tract, chronic inflammation from infectious disease, and electrolyte abnormalities, which may result from a number of disorders.
Thyroid function screening (T4)
Thyroid disease is common in both dogs and cats, and a thyroid hormone measurement is included in many wellness blood tests. Hypothyroidism (low) may be seen in dogs and hyperthyroidism (elevated) is common in older cats. A screening total T4 level is used to determine if further thyroid function testing is warranted.
A decrease in urine concentration is the earliest sign of impaired kidney function and can occur without any blood work changes. A urinalysis can also detect urinary tract infections, crystals, and other inflammatory diseases involving the urinary system. Glucose in the urine can indicate diabetes, and an elevated bilirubin in the urine can be the first sign of biliary or liver disease. A UA may also aid in the diagnosis of urinary stones and bladder or prostate cancer, although imaging will be needed for a definitive diagnosis of these diseases.
We recommend a fecal flotation test on all patients every 6-12months based on their lifestyle. Pets of any age are susceptible to parasitism and we regularly diagnose parasites on routine fecal screening. Some parasites are contracted from the environment such as giardia and several types of worms (roundworms, hookworms). Different species of tapeworms are contracted through flea infestation or hunting rodents.
Heartworm testing may be recommended depending on your pet’s lifestyle and travel history. The distribution of heartworm disease is changing as our global temperatures rise and the mosquito vector (intermediate host) is becoming more widespread. Although the incidence of heartworm transmission in Washington State is still extremely low, there are other areas of the Pacific Northwest experiencing higher transmission rates than ever before. This is an ever-changing topic so don’t forget to talk to your veterinarian if your pet travels with you at all.
Radiographs (X-rays) and Ultrasound (Abdominal, Cardiac/ Echo)
Generally speaking, blood work evaluates a patient’s organ function and imaging is used to assess organ structure. In veterinary medicine imaging tests are frequently the most valuable tool we have to screen for cancer. Radiographs and ultrasound are used to provide different but complimentary information. In general, radiographs are better for imaging the bones and lungs, whereas ultrasound is more sensitive for the soft tissue organs and heart function. There are benefits and limitations to both and your veterinarian will help guide which is the better modality to use, however sometimes both imaging techniques are necessary to complete the diagnostic picture.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is fairly common and can pose serious health threats for our senior pets. There are many possible underlying causes of hypertension such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and adrenal disorders. However, having high blood pressure in and of itself is dangerous and can lead to stroke, blindness, behavior changes, and seizure-like episodes. Measuring a pet’s blood pressure is simple and done similarly as in people with a cuff around one of the limbs. Most cases of hypertension can be controlled with medication, minimizing the risks of secondary health effects.
Although your veterinarian recommends screening tests to monitor for disease, it’s always great news to have completely normal test results and know that your pet is in excellent health also!
Northwest Veterinary Hospital