By Willie Graham IV, DVM, Houston Humane Society

Diagnostic tests assist veterinarians in confirming or rejecting certain diseases or illnesses our patients may be experiencing. Performing multiple diagnostics allows us to create a treatment plan that is more effective for the patient.  The physical examination along with good history is the basis of each appointment. This may give us an initial idea of conditions, but additional diagnostics will be beneficial for a more definitive diagnosis. Some common examples of useful diagnostic techniques include bloodwork, diagnostic imaging, and urinalysis. 

Bloodwork includes collecting a sample of blood from the patient and running it through a machine designed to produce results consisting of a complete blood count and chemistry panel. The complete blood count allows us to look at the red blood cells and white blood cells to determine if there is an anemia, infection or inflammation. The blood chemistry panel provides information about the kidney function, liver function, electrolytes, protein, and glucose levels.

Diagnostic imaging includes radiographs, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasonography, with the most common being radiographs and ultrasonography. The radiograph, also known as x-ray, uses a small dose of radiation through the body to produce an image.  Radiographs allow us to visualize broken bones, foreign bodies, and fluid. It also allows us to look at the shape and size of different organs such as, the heart, liver, kidneys, etc. Ultrasonography uses soundwaves to reflect a real time image on a monitor. Ultrasound is useful to evaluate the valves of the heart, urinary system (kidneys and bladder), and reproductive system.

Other useful tests include a urinalysis, fecal float, or skin scrape. A urinalysis allows us to examine fresh urine which may indicate a disease process, injury and/or defect in the urinary system. This is done by examining components of the urine such as the color, pH, glucose and specific gravity of the urine. Fecal floatation is used to look for parasite eggs that may be living in the patients’ gastrointestinal tract and a skin scrape is used to look for ectoparasites such demodectic mange or sarcoptic mange. 

In conclusion, diagnostic tests are extremely important in the medical field. These tests provide pertinent information on what may be impacting the patient, causing them not to feel well. Without the proper test, it would be difficult to choose the most effective treatment plant for the patient.