Medical Investigations/Diagnostic Procedures
There are numerous tests and diagnostic aids that can be used to help us discover what is wrong with our patients. The kinds of tests used depend on what symptoms the animal displays.
A urine test is relatively simple test where the sample can sometimes be collected at home and sometimes needs to be collected under more sterile conditions at the surgery
Samples can easily be analysed in our "in house" laboratory. Much useful information can be gained from these simple tests. For example, certain infections, parasites and metabolic problems can be detected.
These are usually our next line of investigation. These are taken from veins in either the foreleg or neck. We analyse the blood cells and also certain chemicals present in the fluid portion. These results can give us an insight into certain infections and also give us an overview of the state of particular internal organs. In some cases this may lead us to do further, more specific blood tests, which are sent away to external laboratories for analysis.
In many disease conditions it is also helpful for us to try and visualise particular areas of the body. This is called "diagnostic imaging" and includes x-rays and ultrasound scanning. Both these techniques are non-invasive and non-painful, though animals may require sedation or anaesthesia in order that we may perform the procedures. They enable us to take an "indirect look" at the internal organs e.g. bladder, kidneys, liver, heart, prostate, womb
Another very useful technique is endoscopy. This is unique in that it enables us to visualise lesions directly. It is usually used for investigations of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. The patient is anaesthetised and a flexible tube containing optic fibres is passed into the appropriate position. It is also possible to take small biopsies via a tiny pincer-like arm that is incorporated into the equipment.
For heart problems it may be necessary to take an electrocardiograph. Wires are attached to each of the patient's limbs that read the electrical impulses across the heart. These are then turned into a graph that is traced out onto paper. It gives an impression of the rate and rhythm of the heart as well as giving an idea of the size of the heart chambers.
An extremely wide range of tests and facilities are available for investigation, monitoring and treatment of different medical conditions. Every case is unique and so the number and type of tests used are specially tailored to the individual patient's needs. The aim is for an efficient and accurate diagnosis, so enabling a speedy recovery for your pet. Sometimes more specialist tests are required e.g. MRI scans, and your pet may need to be referred to a specialist centre for these.
Finally it is important to remember that we must not forget that normal test results are as equally as valuable in the diagnostic procedure as abnormal results!