We do not have an in-house laboratory, but we work with an outside lab that returns most basic tests within 24-48 hours. Some testing may take up to a week, while specialized testing (such as allergy tests and bladder stone analysis) varies and may take as long as 10-14 days.
What can we test for?
Basic blood tests include the following:
- hematology– this is analysis of the red and white blood cells and may reveal issues such as anemia, infection and some cancers.
- biochemistry – this is the chemical analysis of the blood plasma. This testing may reveal problems with organ function (liver, kidney, pancreas), with metabolism (diabetes) and some types of cancer
- electrolytes – these are the ‘salts’ of the body
- thyroid levels – older cats often develop an overactive thyroid, while some dogs have low thyroid levels
- pancreatic lipase – this can help us diagnose pancreatitis (although we often use ultrasound instead)
- Feline Leukemia and FIV testing
- Canine Heartworm testing, and tick borne illnesses (such as Lyme disease, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia infections)
Is any preparation necessary?
In most cases a 12-hour fasting sample is ideal. This really just means that your pet skips breakfast on the day of the test. This isn't always necessary or even possible, and we consider things on a case by case basis.
What happens during a blood test?
This is usually a two-person job – one holds the pet in the right position and raises the vein, and the other person takes the blood.
To get the best sample, we usually take blood from the largest vein that we can access. For cats and small dogs, this may be the jugular vein. For larger dogs, we might use the jugular or a leg vein.
For pets with short hair and easily seen veins, we can often take blood without shaving the fur. For others, we clip a small square of fur away from over the vein.
If we only need a drop, like with glucose testing in diabetics, we'll sometimes use an ear vein. This is like a finger prick for pets.
By looking at urine we can assess:
- how well the kidneys can concentrate the urine (known as the “specific gravity”)
- the pH (acidity) of the urine
- presence of any blood, glucose, ketones, protein, bilirubin
- if there are signs of kidney injury such as casts
- presence of any bacteria and/or crystals
If we are concerned about a urinary tract infection, we will often send urine off to the laboratory so they can run a culture - grow the bacteria on a special plate which shows what antibiotics they respond to.
Fecal samples are sent to the laboratory and tested for presence of a variety of parasites (such as roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, tapeworm, giardia, and coccidia)
We will occasionally see test results with parasites that colonize herbivores and are not parasitic to our pets – this can happen with ingestion of rabbit or deer feces in the yard. They are not considered harmful and are an incidental finding.