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Understanding Diagnostic Tests For Your Cat Or Dog

One of the biggest downsides to treating animal patients is their lack of a voice. Animals can’t tell us where it hurts. You, as an owner, have to pay attention to things like appetite and elimination and energy level at home. Your vet has to depend on findings in a physical exam.

Sometimes physical exam finding are unremarkable, or your pet has vague symptoms that could indicate more than one condition.

Diagnostics tests give us a chance to metaphorically peek inside your pet to see what’s going on.

Here is a guide to the most common diagnostic tests.

Fecal Exam
Performed: yearly for healthy pets and more often for pets with intestinal symptoms
Tests For: Intestinal parasites, such as giardia or hookworms.
Indicated For: all pets

4Dx (also referred to as a heartworm/lyme test)
Performed: Yearly, or any time your dog has been off heartworm prevention for more than two months. This test is also used as a diagnostic for tickborne diseases in pets with symptoms or exposure.
Tests For: Canine Heartworm Disease, Lyme Disease, Erlichiosis, Anaplasmosis
Indicated For: all dogs over 6 months of age

Feline Combo (FeLV/FIV)
Performed: at least once lifetime
Tests For: the viruses Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Indicated For: on all kittens over 12 weeks old, any strays or new cats with unknown medical history, sick feline patients with unexplained symptoms

Performed: as needed for pets with a history of urinary disease, yearly for older pets at risk for kidney disease
Tests For: urinary tract infection, urinary crystals, underlying disease such as kidney disease
Indicated For: all pets

Performed: yearly as a preventive diagnostic, as needed for sick patients
Tests For: blood count, organ function, hydration
Indicated For: all pets

Performed: Yearly for older pets, as needed for pets with weight loss or weight gain issues
Tests For: thyroid function
Indicated for: senior cats, breeds at risk for thyroid disease, pets with symptoms of underlying thyroid disease

Performed: As needed
Tests For: pancreatic specific lipase levels, an indication of a condition called pancreatitis
Indicated For: Dogs with severe vomiting and diarrhea, especially those breeds at an increased risk for pancreatitis

SNAP Parvo
Performed: As needed
Tests For: parvovirus, a highly contagious viral illness that affects mostly puppies
Indicated For: young and/or unvaccinated puppies with poor appetite, vomiting or diarrhea

Performed: As needed
Tests For: a neuroendocrine hormone released in patients with heart disease
Indicated For: cats with heart disease symptoms, history of heart murmur, or cats with vague symptoms that have yielded normal results on other diagnostics

All of these diagnostic tests can be performed in-house, with the exception of the fecal flotation test, which is sent to an outside lab.  There are also numerous tests available for specific conditions, but these tests listed are the ones most commonly performed.


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