In house laboratory

Lab tests are used to help your veterinarian assess your cat’s health below the surface. While the physical examination is the first tool your vet uses to assess your cat, sometimes more information is needed. The veterinarian may recommend tests:

 

- for health screening at an initial or wellness visit to establish a baseline of your cat’s health, and look for hidden problems that can prevent a medical emergency.

 

- before medical procedures such as surgery or dentistry. It’s important to know that your cat is fit for anesthesia and will be ready to smoothly recover after the procedure is done, followed by a comfortable healing period at home. Should the test results reveal that there is a problem, your vet may recommend further measures be taken prior to anesthesia. The information will also allow your veterinarian to adjust and tailor the drugs used during procedures to help keep your cat safe while taking special care to monitor certain trends in their vital signs.

 

- when a patient isn’t feeling well. Lab tests are ordered to further assess your cat’s health status to get to the heart of the problem. When a patient is examined, sometimes the diagnosis is clear, such as an ear infection or flea allergy. Other times, your vet needs to dig deeper to get you answers and develop the best treatment plan for optimal outcome.

 

What are these tests, and what important information do they tell your vet about your cat?

 

Bloodwork

 

- Complete blood count (CBC): evaluates your cat’s blood cells, which tells your vet about your cat’s immune response, clotting ability, show signs of active infection, and anemia (a lack of red blood cells) or dehydration which are critical to know if your cat is undergoing surgery or dentistry, or if your cat is sick. A CBC is also a fundamental component of the wellness screen.

 

- Chemistry: A variety of chemistry panels can be run. Primary chemistry analyzes basic organ functions including liver and kidney health, electrolyte and protein levels, blood sugar, and thyroid health. It allows you vet to check for common feline diseases likes diabetes, kidney disease, and thyroid health. Specialized tests are available too, from detecting infection of leukaemia and feline immunodeficiency (FIV) viruses, looking for pancreatitis, liver shunts, or analyzing minerals, vitamins, hormones, and whether your cat is still protected by previous vaccines (titre). There are hundreds of available blood tests, and your veterinarian is trained to know which test is best, depending on your cat’s needs and physical symptoms.

 

For convenience and in emergency situations, a CBC and many chemistries are analyzed on-site, including:

  • Albumin (ALB): A protein to help assess hydration and healing ability, and becomes depleted in serious intestinal, liver, and kidney diseases.

  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP): increases can point towards liver disease, and is normally increased due to active bone development in kittens.

  • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT): This test may determine active liver damage, but does not indicate the cause. 

  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): Increases in this test may indicate liver, heart, or skeletal muscle damage.

  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): Helps assess hydration status, and abnormal levels may indicate kidney impairment, intestinal disease or advanced liver disease. 

  • Creatinine (CREA): Helps assess kidney function, and helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN.

  • Calcium (Ca): Numerous conditions can influence calcium, including tumours, nutritional imbalance, hormonal disruption, and kidney disease.

  • Gamma Glutamyl transferase (GGT): This enzyme specifically looks at gall bladder function and bile duct disease. 

  • Globulin (GLOB): This important group of proteins is part of the immune system. Increases are caused by chronic inflammation or infection, and depletions in intestinal conditions.

  • Glucose (GLU): Also known as blood sugar. Increased glucose may be due to stress or diabetes. Low levels can be dangerous and caused by sepsis, insulin overdose, or some tumours of the pancreas.

  • Potassium (K): An electrolyte important to muscle and cell functions and can be depleted when there is vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination, or changes in body chemistry. Severely increased or decreased levels are dangerous to the heart and are seen in some emergency situations such as bladder blockage.

  • Sodium (Na): An electrolyte critical to cell function, and often changes due to vomiting, diarrhea, kidney and hormone dysfunction.

  • Phosphorus (PHOS): An important mineral in calcium regulation for healthy bones and teeth. Abnormal levels are often due to kidney or intestinal diseases, lack of nourishment, and in thyroid and bleeding disorders.

  • Total bilirubin (TBIL): A product of liver and red blood cells, and elevations indicate liver disease or red blood cell destruction. This test helps identify bile duct problems and some types of anemia.

  • Total protein (TP): The combination of albumin and globulins helps determine hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys, and infectious diseases.

  • Thyroxine (T4): Thyroid hormone. High levels indicate hyperthyroidism, a common condition of senior and geriatric cats. 

 

Unfortunately there is no available blood test that confirms cancer is present, unless it is a cancer of blood cells specifically, such as leukemia. Even then, further tests are often required to confirm.

 

Urinalysis

 

- A routine lab test that tells your veterinarian much about your cat’s urinary tract, from kidney to bladder health. It is recommended to collect and check a urine sample if your cat is getting older and kidney disease is suspected, if your cat is having trouble peeing or is urinating in an inappropriate location, or to confirm diabetes, screen for crystals or infections, and in many other situations. The information from a urine test can work in conjunction with bloodwork to give your vet a fuller picture of your cat’s health.

 

Fecal analysis

- In-house fecal tests are done routinely to look for common parasites, such as roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and coccidia. It’s important to collect a fresh stool sample from your cat for our technicians to analyze. This test may be recommended if your cat is experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, changes in appetite, or vomiting. It may also be part of the wellness visit for screening purposes.

 

Cytology

- This in-house testing is ordered when we need to know the finer details of a problem. Cytology is a way of looking at samples under the microscope by collecting a sample, preparing it with special stains, and looking in our high-powered microscope to find answers. We use cytology to diagnose various conditions from skin parasites to blood cell diseases, ear infections or mites, and use this invaluable tool to evaluate lumps and bodily fluids that help us make a diagnosis for our patients.

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