The ABCs of Lab Testing Part 3

posted on February 01, 2016 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

There are a lot of acronyms used in the medical field.  One area where we use abbreviations frequently is with the blood work and laboratory tests we run.  In this three part series of blogs, we will look at some of the different abbreviations and acronyms we use so you can speak the lingo with us!

In this third part of the series, we will discuss other miscellaneous tests we use in veterinary medicine.

One of the more common additional tests we use is the T4, or thyroid test.  Dogs tend to get a low T4 as they age, and this can cause changes in weight, appetite, and haircoat.  Cats on the other hand, tend to get an elevated T4, which can cause vomiting, weight loss, increased appetite, increased vocalization, and/or increased activity level.  Thyroid function is important for metabolism, but can also cause heart, skin, or GI tract issues when not in the normal range.

Another very common test we perform is the urinalysis, or UA.  This test looks at the specific gravity (concentration) of the urine, checks for sugar or ketones in the urine indicating diabetes, as well as looking for red or white blood cells, bacteria, crystals, and pH.  It can show things such as possible bladder stones, urinary tract infections (UTI), crystaluria, or poor kidney function.

If we are seeing a lot of bacteria in a UA, we may recommend a C&S, or culture and sensitivity.  We may also recommend this for wounds, ear infections, or other infections.  This test takes a sample of bacteria and grows it to determine which type of bacteria(s) it is, and which antibiotics would work best for treating it.  This test is not done every single time, but in cases that are complex or have not responded to treatment, we may recommend this.

Still another test we may recommend is the ACTH stimulation or ACTH stim test.  This test is to look for Addison’s or Cushing’s disease.  These are diseases where the adrenal glands are not performing correctly.  Addison’s disease usually presents with vomiting, diarrhea, and general malaise, whereas Cushing’s disease usually presents with increased thirst and urination, increased panting, increased appetite, and/or increase in weight.  Changes on the chemistry profile may make the doctor want to run this additional test.

Overall, the veterinary field is full of acronyms and abbreviations.  Hopefully now you have a slightly better understanding of some of the more common tests we recommend and why we perform them.  If you have questions about any of these, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

My Pet’s Tummy is Upset

posted on March 06, 2014 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

The pet’s GI, or gastrointestinal, tract, is a word used to describe the tube that takes food from the mouth, to the stomach, intestines, and colon.  It may also include a number of organs that help with digestion of nutrients and removal of waste products, including the pancreas, liver, and kidneys, thyroid, and even the brain.  Given that most of the body is included in this list, it shouldn’t be a surprise that when a pet becomes ill, one of the many signs we might see can include the GI tract, such as vomiting.

Vomiting is a very common complaint in our pets.  You might think it means that there is something wrong with the GI tract itself, which may be true, but issues in many of the other organs of the can also lead to vomiting.  This is why we recommend an examination, take a thorough history of signs, appetite, exposure to other pets, toxins, foods, etc. and may recommend tests including blood work to look at organ function, for signs of infection or anemia, stool analysis to look at bacterial balance, and x-rays or ultrasound to look internally at the organs.

Just to give you an idea of things that can cause vomiting in a pet, here is a list.  It is by no means a complete list however, but does include some of the more common causes:

  • anxiety
  • nervous system dysfunction such as vestibular disease (vertigo), motion sickness, megaesophagus, or other motility issues within the GI tract
  • toxin exposure or ingestion
  • dietary indiscretion-this can range from eating something too rich or fatty which could lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), to eating something that just doesn’t agree with the pet and causes gastroenteritis or colitis (inflammation of the GI tract or colon respectively), or eating something that is harmful to the pet (toxin, foreign material)
  • Hairballs and other foreign materials or blockages, also including intuscusseptions
  • Bacterial overgrowth or imbalance
  • Viral, bacterial, fungal, and other infections
  • Ulcers or too much stomach acids
  • Tumors
  • GDV (twisted stomach) or bloat (though sometimes the symptom of these are vomiting WITHOUT producing anything)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, dietary intolerance, allergies, or allergic reactions
  • Metabolic issues such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Addison’s disease, or liver or kidney diseases

As you can see, there are quite a few reasons your pet may be vomiting, which is why we recommend coming in for an examination and testing as mentioned above.  Pending results of the preliminary testing, further testing to look at more specific causes may be recommended such as an ACTH stimulation test, urinalysis, fructosamine level, culture and sensitivity, biopsies, diet changes, allergy testing, barium series, or others.

By working together to determine the cause of the vomiting, we hope to be able to come up with a specific treatment plan to help your pet (and your carpets!) feel better.  Call us today if your pet is vomiting!