In your pet’s life there will likely come a time your vet will want some lab tests done. It’s more common as pets get older. But even younger pets can develop problems that require lab tests for us to find the cause. Therefore, we’d like to go over the purpose of lab tests and why we ask for one or more lab tests, and why they are so important.
3 Common Lab Tests for Pets
We do feces tests to determine if your pet has intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, and giardiasis. You may be able to see signs that your pet may have intestinal parasites. The most obvious signs are:
- Bloated belly
But a pet with parasites may also:
- Lose weight
- Have decreased appetite
- Dull coat
Left untreated, they can decrease your pet’s ability to absorb nutrients, cause vomiting or diarrhea, or damage your pet’s intestines. The only way we can confirm parasites and what type they are is through a fecal exam. We will ask you to bring us a fresh stool sample from your pet. The stool sample is fresh because some parasites are harder to detect the older the stool is. Ideally, you bring a sample to us the same day you collect it. If you cannot, you must refrigerate it and bring it in as soon as possible. We recommend a fecal test be done at least once a year to keep your pet safe and healthy.
A urinalysis can determine various types of urinary tract diseases. A pet can be suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI) and/or urinary crystals. Both of these conditions are painful for pets and if not treated can become life-threatening.
Signs of urinary tract infection:
- Increased frequency of urination
- Straining to urinate
- Inappropriate urination
A urine sample is important to find out if there is a bacterial infection and if so, what type. When we know the type of bacteria we can prescribe the right antibiotic to treat it. If there are crystals present, the urinalysis tells us what type. We can then prescribe the right diet to address the type of crystals in the urine.
We also use urinalysis tests to give us information about your pet’s organs. For example, a pet can be suffering from liver disease, kidney disease, or diabetes.
Health conditions a urine test helps detect:
- Kidney Disease
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Liver Disease
- Bladder Stones
- Cushing’s Syndrome
Many types of blood tests can be done on a pet. For example, a Complete Blood Count test (CBC) is vital if a pet is showing symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums, or loss of appetite. We use the blood test to help diagnose if your pet has anemia, dehydration, an infection, allergy, etc.
A very important role of a blood test is to ensure your pet is healthy before anesthesia. This may not at first seem important for a simple procedure such as teeth cleaning. However, a pet can have a hidden disorder that could put their life at risk without the data from the blood tests. Bloodwork before surgery guides us in using the best drugs for sedation and anesthesia for your pet. Every drug has its side effects, and we want the best outcome possible for you and your pet.
There are blood tests that are specific to the type of animal you have. Dogs may be tested for heartworm. Cats, especially kittens, should be tested for Feline Leukemia-Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
When Should I Get My Pet Tested?
- New Pet. You have just added a new member to your family. If your new pet has a clean bill of health record recently from a vet, that’s great. If not, schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible. In the meantime, keep your new pet separated from your other pets until you get the “all clear” from us. You want to ensure your new pet does not spread any infectious diseases to your other pets.
- Before Surgery. As covered above, we need to ensure your pet can handle anesthesia. Also, we want to prescribe the right drugs for your pet’s condition.
- Sick Pet. When your pet is sick we may need to get some lab tests done. Lab tests will help us get to the right source of the problem.
- Yearly Wellness Visits. As pets age, we notice the obvious changes. They start sleeping more, play less, or move with more effort. As they age, their vital organ functions gradually change too. Lab tests can detect changes that could lead to serious illness. The sooner these conditions are treated, the better chance your pet has of living a longer, high-quality life.
- Before Medicating. As mentioned above, medications can have different side effects. Therefore, before beginning a medication we need to ensure the medication will not cause any adverse effects to your pet.
- Monitoring Your Pet during Medicating. There are some conditions where the pet’s responses to medication need to be monitored through testing. For example, a pet may be on medication for a heart or kidney problem. We need to ensure your pet’s organs are responding well to the medication and that it is being effective.
Lab tests give us some vision of what is going on inside your pet. We use lab tests to get to the root cause of illness or disease so we can properly treat your pet and give them the quality of life they deserve. While lab tests may add cost to a vet visit, they can save your pet’s life. Also, expensive emergencies can sometimes be avoided if illness is caught in its early stages with lab tests. If you have any questions about tests your pet may need, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Sincerely, Dr. Tammy Stevenson, D.V.M.