Educational Articles

Dogs + Diagnosis

  • Fecal occult blood refers to the presence of small quantities of blood in the stool that cannot be seen with the naked eye (occult means concealed from view). The blood can come from anywhere in the digestive tract, including the mouth, stomach, intestines or rectum.

  • Cytology is the microscopic examination of cells that have been collected from body tissues. Fine needle aspiration (FNA), also called fine needle biopsy, is the most frequently used technique in cytology. It is typically used to sample lumps and bumps on the body; however, it is also used to evaluate internal organs and body fluids. A sterile fine gauge needle is attached to an empty syringe and is introduced into the tissue. The tissue cells or fluid are aspirated when the plunger of the syringe is drawn back while the needle is held in the tissue. The cells are placed onto a clean glass slide, dried, and stained with special dyes. The cells are then examined under a microscope. Cytology by FNA does not always provide a diagnosis but contributes valuable information that ultimately leads to a final diagnosis.

  • Flow cytometry is a laboratory technique that can be used for counting, examining, and sorting cells. The sample is passed through a light source and as the cells move through the path of the light source, they scatter the light. The scattered light is captured by lenses, translated into an electrical signal, and is then analyzed and displayed as a graphical representation of the cell populations within the sample. Flow cytometry is used to count and group cells within a blood sample. It is also used in the characterization of cellular subpopulations; for example, to distinguish between benign and malignant lymphocytes.

  • A Holter monitor is a portable device used to continuously monitor the electrical activity of the heart and can be an effective and non-invasive way to help your veterinarian evaluate heart conditions especially when trying to determine the cause of fainting episodes or evaluate treatment. Many dogs are not bothered by it and ignore its presence.

  • The term hypercalcemia is used when the level of calcium in the blood is higher than normal. Calcium levels are controlled by a pair of parathyroid glands. High calcium levels may signal the presence of serious underlying disease including kidney failure, adrenal gland failure, a parathyroid gland tumor, and some types of cancer. Pets with hypercalcemia may show signs of weakness, listlessness, increased drinking and urination, and loss of appetite. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests which may include total calcium, ionized calcium, albumin, and parathyroid hormone levels.

  • Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Leptospira. The disease causes serious damage to the kidney and liver, and may be fatal in severe cases. Severely infected dogs show signs of lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and increased thirst and urination. Dogs may develop jaundice. There are several tests for diagnosing leptospirosis, but the two most common ones are the DNA-PCR test and the microscopic agglutination test (MAT). Infection can be diagnosed with either test, but each has weaknesses, and in some situations both tests may be needed to reach a diagnosis.

  • Pets that have been diagnosed with epilepsy are usually prescribed one or more medications to prevent convulsions or seizures. Careful monitoring of epileptic pets is necessary, not only to make sure the dose of the medicine is right, but also to ensure there are no problems related to the long-term use of the medication. The most important thing to do is follow your veterinarian's instructions closely and give the medication regularly and consistently. This will ensure that the value reported on the blood test is reliable.

  • Pancreatitis is a disease caused by inflammation of the pancreas. Dogs with severe, sudden on-set pancreatitis are often very ill and show signs of vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and fever. Dogs with less severe forms of pancreatitis may show only mild signs of illness. Pancreas-specific lipase is a form of lipase produced only in the pancreas. It is highly specific to the pancreas, and blood values increase only when there is pancreatic inflammation.

  • Pre-anesthetic testing is the best way to minimize anesthetic risks and ensure good surgical outcomes. Pre-anesthetic testing consists of, at minimum, a full physical examination. Depending on the patient and the reason for anesthesia, blood testing including CBC and biochemistry is often recommended and additional testing such as urinalysis, radiographs, EKG or more advanced testing may be needed. The results of pre-anesthetic testing are used to formulate the safest anesthetic plan for your pet.

  • A blood test detects pregnancy in the pregnant dog by measuring levels of a hormone called relaxin. This hormone is produced by the developing placenta following implantation of the embryo, and can be detected in the blood in most pregnant dogs as early as 22-27 days post-breeding.