Diagnostic tests help your veterinarian figure out exactly why your pet is not feeling well. From imaging machines to laboratory tests our Dallas vets are here to tell you what to expect from each procedure.
Radiography - X-Rays for Dogs & Cats
X-rays are one of the most helpful, and frequently used tools in veterinary healthcare. X-rays are painless, non-invasive and safe. They can help your vet to get a view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs so that they can diagnose problems such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowing foreign objects, and more. X-ray images can help vets to spot some tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs which may lead to a diagnosis such as heart disease or cancer.
X-rays will not provide a detailed view of your pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments using x-ray technology. In these cases, other diagnostic imaging such as MRI and Ultrasound is more beneficial.
Ultrasound Imaging for Pets
Our beloved cats and dogs often get into things they shouldn’t or develop health issues such as cysts or tumors that require treatment. Ultrasounds are a form of imaging technology that transmits sound waves into your pet’s body to produce a 'picture' of a specific body part. Veterinary ultrasounds are non-invasive and can be used to diagnose or evaluate problems with your pet's internal organs or check on your pet's pregnancy.
An ultrasound can help our vets examine the structure of your pet’s organs so we can discover and identify blockages, tumors or other problems.
PET/CT Scan for Pets
Computed Tomography - CT Scans for Dogs & Cats
The high-resolution images produced by the CT machine help your veterinary team to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail - detail that would be impossible to achieve with standard X-rays.
CT scanners provide your vet with an outstanding image of your dog or cat's bony and soft tissue structures. CT technology is most commonly used to generate images of the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and the chest/lungs. We can also use the CT machine to assess lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.
Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans for Dogs & Cats
A CT scan combined with the use of a contrast agent given to your pet intravenously (IV), allows vets to see increased areas of blood flow in the animal's body. PET scans aid in the detection of cancer and areas of inflammation. In humans, PET scans are used to give doctors a detailed view of how the patient's tissues and organs are working. PET scans are most commonly used to detect and monitor cancer.
CT & PET Scan Process
CT and PET require that the animal stay completely still. For this reason, your vet will perform these diagnostic imaging tests while your pet is under general anesthesia. Your pet's vital signs are closely monitored while under anesthesia throughout the entire CT/PET process. In most cases, a CT/PET scan only takes a short time. Once the scan is complete the images will typically be interpreted by a specialist and a detailed report with findings and diagnostic recommendations will be sent to the vet handling your pet's treatment.
MRI - Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Dogs & Cats
MRI scans can provide your vet with high-resolution, detailed images of your pet's soft tissues including the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons, and abdominal organs. For many types of soft tissue injuries or diseases, the use of veterinary MRIs can provide a more detailed image of your pet's body than other diagnostic imaging tools such as X-Rays or CT Scans.
If your dog or cat is exhibiting symptoms such as limping, lameness, seizures, joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, an MRI might be recommended to help diagnose the cause of your pet's symptoms.
What is a Urinalysis?
A urinalysis is a simple diagnostic test that determines the physical and chemical properties of urine. It is primarily used to evaluate the health of the kidneys and urinary system, but it can also reveal issues with other organ systems. All pets eight years of age and older should have a yearly urinalysis. A urinalysis may also be recommended if your pet has increased water intake, increased frequency of urination, or visible blood in the urine.
How is Urine Collected?
There are three main ways to collect urine from cats and dogs:
Cystocentesis: Urine is collected from the bladder using a sterile needle and syringe. The benefit of cystocentesis is that the urine is not contaminated by debris from the lower urinary tract. This sample is ideal for evaluating the bladder and kidneys as well as detecting bacterial infection. The procedure is slightly more invasive than others and is only useful if the pet's bladder is full.
Catheterization: Catheterization is a less invasive method of extracting urine from the bladder in dogs and is an excellent choice when a voluntary sample is unavailable, particularly in male dogs. A very narrow sterile catheter is inserted into the bladder through the lower urinary passage (called the urethra).
Mid-stream Free Flow: The pet urinates voluntarily, and a sample is collected into a sterile container as the pet urinates. This type of sample is frequently referred to as a "free flow" or "free catch" sample. The benefits of this method include the fact that it is completely non-invasive and that the pet owner can collect the urine sample at home.
Understanding the Results of a Urinalysis
There are four main parts to a urinalysis:
- Assess appearance: color and turbidity (cloudiness).
- Measure the concentration (also known as the density) of the urine.
- Measure pH (acidity) and analyze the chemical composition of the urine.
- Examine the cells and solid material (urine sediment) present in the urine using a microscope.
Urine samples should be read within 30 minutes of the collection because other factors (such as crystals, bacteria, and cells) can alter the composition (dissolve or multiply). If you collect a urine sample at home, please return it as soon as possible to your veterinary clinic. Unless we are evaluating your pet's ability to concentrate urine, or screening for Cushing's disease, the actual timing of urine collection is usually insignificant. But if we are screening for Cushing's disease or evaluating your pet's ability to concentrate urine, we want a urine sample taken first thing in the morning.
Why is Blood Work Important for Pets?
When done as part of preventive care, blood tests give us an indication of the earliest signs of illness before any outward symptoms appear. So that your vet can detect, identify, diagnose and treat the illness.
When we detect diseases early, prevention and treatment can be administered earlier. Healthy pets also need blood tests during routine exams to obtain normal baseline values to compare to later, and as your pet ages.
If your pet is displaying symptoms, diagnostic blood tests play an essential role in helping your vet determine the cause of their symptoms.
What Do Blood Tests for Pets Reveal?
A complete blood count (CBC) and complete blood chemistry panel, including electrolytes and urinalysis, are common tests. The CBC identifies whether there is anemia, inflammation, or infection present. It can also indicate immune system response and blood clotting ability.
The chemistry panel and electrolytes tell your vet whether your pet’s liver, kidneys, and pancreas are working as they should.
This important lab work can also detect and help to identify complex issues within a dog or cat's internal systems. For example, blood tests for pets can detect whether internal or environmental stimuli are causing hormonal-chemical responses. This tells a veterinarian there may be a potential problem with your pet's endocrine system.
When Does My Pet Need a Blood Test?
Countless circumstances can lead to your vet recommending that your pet have blood work done, such as:
- Your pet's first vet visit (to establish baseline data and for pre-anesthetic testing before a spaying or neutering procedure)
- Semi-annual routine exams as preventive care
- During senior exams to look for age-related conditions in the earliest stages
- As pre-surgical testing to identify your pet's risk of complications during surgery
- Before starting a new medication
- If your pet is showing odd behaviors
- To help assess your pet's condition during an emergency visit
How Long Does Blood Work Take at a Vet?
Thanks to our in-house lab, our vets can perform a variety of tests and get results quickly. The tests themselves are relatively quick and can take minutes. Some tests may take somewhat longer. Your vet can provide an accurate timeframe.
What Do My Pet's Blood Test Results Mean?
At New Hope Animal Hospital, we will always take the time to explain your pet's blood tests and their results, as treatment and management of health issues are a team effort between our veterinary team and loving pet owners.
Typically, your pet's bloodwork will include a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC will be important for pets that have pale gums or are experiencing vomiting, fever, weakness, or loss of appetite. Blood tests for pets with diarrhea also fall into this category.
A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other abnormalities that may not be identified otherwise.
A CBC reveals detailed information, including:
- Hematocrit (HCT): With this test, we can identify the percentage of red blood cells to detect hydration or anemia.
- Hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are pigments of red blood cells that carry oxygen.
- White blood cell count (WBC): With this test, we measure the body’s immune cells. Certain diseases or infections can cause WBC to increase or decrease.
- Granulocytes and lymphocytes/monocytes (GRANS and L/M): These are specific types of white blood cells.
- Eosinophils (EOS): These are a specific type of white blood cells that can indicate health conditions due to allergies or parasites.
- Platelet count: (PLT): This test measures cells that form blood clots.
- Reticulocytes (RETICS): High levels of immature red blood cells can point to regenerative anemia.
- Fibrinogen (FIBR): We can glean important information about blood clotting from this test. High levels can indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant.
What Blood Chemistries Reveal (Blood Serum Test):
Blood chemistries (blood serum tests) give us insight into a dog or cat's organ function (liver, kidneys, and pancreas), hormone levels, electrolyte status, and more.
The test can be used to assess the health of older pet's, do general health assessments before anesthesia, or monitor pet's receiving long-term medications.
These tests also help us evaluate senior pets’ health and those with symptoms of diseases (such as Addison’s, diabetes, kidney diseases, or others), diarrhea, vomiting, or toxin exposure.
Does My Pet Need Blood Tests & Lab Work?
At New Hope Animal Hospital our vets recommend blood tests are conducted and lab work done as a proactive measure during an annual routine exam, even if your pet seems perfectly healthy. This is because the sooner we catch health issues, the more effectively we can treat your cat or dog.
Our veterinary team will always advocate for your pet’s health, explain any tests that are needed and why, and take a preventive approach to veterinary care.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.