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Dogs + Diagnosis

  • Serum iron tests are indicated when the results from a complete blood count indicate that your pet is anemic and that the red blood cells are microcytic and hypochromic. Because blood is a rich source of iron, chronic external blood loss can lead to iron deficiency anemia. Tests to assess iron deficiency require a single blood sample that is sent to a veterinary referral laboratory. Additional tests such as serum biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and fecal evaluation are also used as screening tests to determine the cause or source of the chronic blood loss.

  • Serum contains a large number of proteins that perform diverse functions which include providing cellular nutrition, defending against infections, playing a role in inflammation, and acting as hormones or enzymes. Protein electrophoresis is a specialized test that analyzes specific groups of proteins in the blood serum and measures how much of each group of protein is present. The results of the analysis help diagnose specific diseases, such as infection and some types of cancer.

  • A biopsy is one of the more common diagnostic procedures performed in dogs. Biopsies provide valuable insight into the type of cells in an abnormal area of skin or a skin growth and whether the growth poses a more serious health threat to your pet. Either the entire mass or a small representative section of skin is removed and submitted to a veterinary pathologist, who will perform a histopathology analysis. The pathologist will attempt to determine the nature of the lesion, identify the type of cells and their relationship to each other, as well as any evidence of malignancy.

  • Addison’s disease or hypoadrenocorticism results from decreased corticosteroid and mineralocorticoid production from the adrenal glands. This results in non-specific signs of illness that mimic many other diseases. Laboratory changes consistent with Addison’s disease include anemia, absence of a stress leukogram (in a sick/stressed pet), hypoglycemia, elevated potassium, and low sodium causing a low sodium:potassium ratio, elevated kidney values and high urine specific gravity. Although an elevated resting blood cortisol level can rule out Addison’s disease, an ACTH stimulation test is needed to diagnose Addison’s disease. This requires a resting blood cortisol sample, administration of synthetic ACTH and a blood cortisol level 1-2 hours later to assess the adrenal response to ACTH. Consistently low levels of cortisol despite ACTH stimulation confirm the diagnosis. Primary Addison’s and secondary/atypical Addison’s can be differentiated by assessing the amount of endogenous ACTH in the blood.

  • Abdominal enlargement in dogs may occur due to a simple cause such as obesity, pregnancy, or intestinal parasites; however, it can also be a sign of different illnesses including hyperadrenocorticism, hypothyroidism, heart disease, organ enlargement trauma, GDV, and cancer. Identifying the cause of abdominal enlargement can take several steps starting with history and physical exam, progressing to screening tests including bloodwork and urinalysis. The CBC is assessed for signs of anemia, low platelets, or signs of inflammation. A biochemistry profile may reveal liver or kidney dysfunction, hypo- or hyperproteinemia, hypoglycemia, or other abnormalities. Urinalysis is used to fully interpret the biochemistry and check for abnormal urinary sediment. Based on the findings of the screening tests, additional diagnostics may include imaging, EKG, tissue biopsy, or fluid analysis.

  • Coughing can have many different causes. Important for the diagnosis is a thorough history, physical exam, and screening tests including CBC, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, fecal testing (including fecal Baermann), heartworm testing, and chest radiographs. Additional, more advanced diagnostics, may be needed including ultrasound, thoracocentesis, transtracheal wash, bronchoscopy, or bronchoalveolar lavage. Culture and sensitivity testing, fungal serology, and cytology may be performed on fluid/tissue that is sampled.

  • Listlessness and inappetence are vague signs that can occur in pets for many reasons, both physical and mental. Conditions that produce these signs include grief, anxiety, oral disease, organ dysfunction, and cancer. Diagnosis starts with taking a thorough history and physical exam and may progress to screening tests including a CBC, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. Other diagnostic tests that may be needed include hormonal tests, liver function tests, imaging (radiographs or ultrasound), culture and sensitivity, or specific tests for infectious diseases or immune mediated disease.

  • Diarrhea can be caused by many different things, some easier to diagnose than others. Simple diarrhea with no other clinical signs may not require diagnostic testing, but if diarrhea is ongoing or your pet is showing other clinical signs then baseline diagnostic testing including complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and fecal testing may be recommended. Additional diagnostic testing may be required depending on the results of these tests.

  • Fever of unknown origin is a term used for persistent fever in pets. It has many causes including infection, immune-mediated disease and cancer. Initial steps in diagnosis are history and physical exam, followed by standard screening tests including CBC, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. Based on the results of these tests, further testing may be indicated such as imaging (radiographs and/or ultrasound), fine needle aspiration, joint taps, bacterial or fungal cultures of affected fluid/tissue, and specific testing for diseases such as feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, or Lyme disease.

  • Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis, better known as heartworm. Dogs become infected when they are bitten by an infected mosquito that is carrying immature heartworms. Heartworm disease is widespread in the United States and is particularly common along the southeastern and gulf coasts, and through the Mississippi River valley. In Canada, heartworm infection is more restricted and is localized to southern Ontario, southern Manitoba, and southern Quebec, with scattered occurrences elsewhere in the country.