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!

Another New Year, Another Year Older

posted on January 02, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

As January rolls in, we find ourselves and our pets becoming another year older.  Did you know that your pet ages more rapidly than we do, and can be affected by some of the same age related diseases?  Dogs over 50 pounds are considered seniors after the age of 5, and dogs under 50 pounds and cats are considered seniors after the age of 7.  Since they age quicker, we recommend yearly to twice a year blood work and examinations to help us detect health issues early.

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There are a number of tests we may recommend based on your pet’s age, symptoms, and health status.  These include a variety of blood tests such as a complete blood count, chemistry panel, and thyroid tests, a urine test, or other tests as necessary.

A complete blood count, or CBC, is a blood test that looks at the number, size, shape, and color of the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets or clotting cells, and the amount of protein in the blood.  This test can help alert us to problems such as anemia, infections, clotting disorders, dehydration, blood parasites, or even cancer.

A chemistry profile is another blood test.  It looks at liver and kidney values to help alert us to problems such as liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, other metabolic diseases, and even cancer.  We may recommend a chemistry profile before starting your pet on medications, as many medications used to treat the diseases seen in older animals are processed by the liver and/or kidneys.  We need to monitor the values to make sure your pet can safely handle the medications before and during the treatment.

Thyroid tests look at the amount of thyroid hormone circulating in the blood.  Older dogs are prone to low thyroid hormone, which can lead to skin and hair problems and weight gain.  Older cats are prone to high thyroid hormone, which leads to signs such as vomiting and weight loss with an increased appetite.

A urinalysis is a test run on the urine looking for signs of infections, stones or crystals, or early signs of kidney disease.  It can also show signs of diabetes and liver disease.

These tests are important to help us monitor for signs of the many diseases that can affect older pets.  With careful monitoring we can help catch these problems early, which can help us mitigate the signs and give your pet a longer, healthier life.