Educational Articles

Dogs + Diagnosis

  • The causes of abdominal enlargement include an increase in intra-abdominal fat due to simple overall weight gain because of excess calories or insufficient exercise. A redistribution of fat into the abdominal cavity may occur with Cushing's disease.

  • 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.

  • Inappropriate urination happen in well-trained pets for many reasons, including inflammation, infection, estrogen deficiency, kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, Cushing's disease, neurological disease, or behavioral issues. A number of screening tests will be performed by your veterinarian to determine the root cause of the inappropriate urination. These tests may include complete blood count, serum biochemistry, and urinalysis. Depending on the results of the screening tests, your veterinarian may recommend further testing including culture and sensitivity, cytology, X-rays or ultrasound, and stone analysis.

  • An increased appetite can be normal in an animal that has higher than normal energy requirements such as nursing, high energy sports, and growth in puppies or kittens. Many diseases can cause an increased appetite in the face of illness including hyperthyroidism in cats, Cushing’s disease, intestinal disease, diabetes or insulinoma, intestinal parasitism, and cancer. Increased appetite can also be caused by certain medications such as corticosteroids. Diagnosis generally requires a thorough history, physical exam, CBC, biochemistry panel, thyroxine (in cats), and urinalysis. Additional diagnostic testing may be required based on findings of the initial screening tests.

  • These clinical signs are non-specific and can be caused by many different diseases or conditions. Usually increased production of dilute urine results in a compensatory increase in water consumption, but occasionally the condition is one of increased water intake resulting in the production of large volumes of dilute urine.

  • Jaundice is caused by the build-up of bilirubin in the tissues due to high blood levels of bilirubin (hyperbilirubinemia). Hyperbilirubinemia occurs either due to increased red blood cell destruction (hemolysis), or the liver is unable to process or excrete bilirubin normally. CBC, biochemistry panel, and urinalysis are tests used to further define the cause of jaundice. Hemolysis will result in significant reduction of PCV/HCT but not affect plasma protein levels. Abnormal RBCs may be seen indicating IMHA or infectious causes of hemolysis. Liver disease severe enough to cause jaundice will result in significant increases in liver values: ALT and AST if the liver has been damaged by toxins, infection or tumors; ALP and GGT if there is a problem with bile flow out of the liver and/or gallbladder such as gallstones or pancreatitis. Obstruction of bile flow may also be detected in urine samples as a lack of urobilinogen. These tests only define where the problem is occurring, not what the problem is, so further diagnostics that may be needed and include ultrasound, X-ray, FNA, liver biopsy and/or bacterial culture from fluid found in or around the liver. More specific tests for infectious diseases include FeLV, feline coronavirus, and fungal testing.