Educational Articles

Diagnosis

  • Antibody titers are sometimes needed to diagnose disease. Antibody titers reflect the level of antibody that the pet has made in response to exposure to a certain infectious organism. The titer is generated by sequentially diluting the serum and testing it against the organism in question. The more dilute the serum when it stops producing a positive reaction, the higher the concentration of antibodies present in the blood. Titers give support to a diagnosis allowing more targeted treatment and more specific prognostic information as well as identifying zoonotic disease.

  • Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive therapy that is used to examine, diagnose, and treat diseases and conditions that affect joints. It requires a specialized piece of equipment called an arthroscope which will allow your veterinarian to look inside the joint using a small fiber optic camera that is hooked up to a monitor. It often requires general anesthesia; however, small incisions in the joint allow for a quicker recovery than traditional methods allow. The recovery time will depend on the extent of the injury, but compared to traditional surgery, recovery time is generally much shorter.

  • Bile acids are made in the liver, released into the intestine to help digest fat, and are reabsorbed into the bloodstream. They can be measured in the blood to determine if the liver is working properly. Indications for the test include elevated liver enzymes, seizures, poor growth, and low blood albumin. The test is usually performed after a 12 hour fast and consists of the measurement of serum bile acids before and 2 hours after a meal. The test can be affected by poor intestinal motility – either from disease, sedation/anesthesia, or if the pet has had part of the intestine removed that is responsible for absorption of bile acids. Bile acids will be high if the liver is not functioning properly. It does not rule out liver disease as disease can affect part of the liver without significantly affecting bile acid production. Elevated bile acids may warrant further diagnostics or monitoring depending on your pet’s condition.

  • Bone marrow is vitally important for the production of blood cells, specifically red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow is commonly collected and examined when abnormalities are found in the circulating blood. Bone marrow examination is complicated and should be done by a specialist. The pathologist’s report typically provides information about the health of the marrow, what types of cells are present, whether abnormal cells are found, and other details that may help to explain the patient’s illness. However, in some cases, bone marrow examination may do nothing more than confirm that there is a problem.

  • The fastest way to examine large numbers of white blood cells is to look at a buffy coat smear. One of the most important cells to look for in a buffy coat is called a mast cell. Mast cells play an important role in allergies and related conditions. In healthy pets, mast cells are found almost exclusively in body tissues and only very rarely in the blood stream. When mast cells are present in the blood stream, systemic mastocytosis is present. This means that the cancer has spread and prognosis is very poor.

  • Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear, colorless fluid found in the brain and spinal cord. The collection of CSF is usually indicated when a pet shows clinical signs, such as seizures, incoordination, circling behavior, and neck or back pain, when no obvious cause is known. The veterinary pathologist will evaluate the sample for a total nucleated cell count, a red blood cell count, a total protein determination, and a concentration of the cells in the sample. The presence of bacteria or fungal organisms may be detected along with increased numbers of inflammatory cells, leading to a diagnosis of bacterial or fungal infection. Neoplastic cells may also be found, indicating an underlying tumor within the brain or spinal cord.

  • Coagulation is the series of events that result in the formation of a clot. In the body, coagulation occurs after any injury to a blood vessel or tissue, in order to stop bleeding. Some breeds of dogs are known to have a higher incidence of clotting factor deficiencies and with these breeds, coagulation tests may be used for screening purposes prior to diagnostic or surgical procedures. There are some tests that can be performed in the veterinary clinic while others must be sent to a reference laboratory for evaluation.

  • The complete blood count (CBC) assesses different parameters of the cells in the blood including total number, appearance, size, and shape. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets comprise the cellular component of the blood. Changes in the red blood cells can affect oxygen delivery from the lungs to the blood. Changes in the white blood cells can indicate infection, inflammation, and cancer. Platelets are needed for adequate blood clotting so decreased numbers can raise concern for spontaneous bleeding.

  • A Coombs’ test is used to test for a disease called autoimmune hemolytic anemia (IMHA). IMHA is a condition where the immune system breaks down or destroys red blood cells, leading to anemia. The test detects the presence of immunoglobulins (antibodies) on the surface of red blood cells. If immunoglobulins are present on the surface of the red blood cells, the red blood cells will agglutinate or clump in the test tube. Taken together, the physical findings and the laboratory data (such as a Coombs’ test) may suggest that immune-mediated destruction of red blood cells is the most likely cause of your pet's anemia.

  • Cushing's disease is a condition caused by an increased production of the stress hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands. There are various reasons for an increase in cortisol production. The clinical signs of Cushing's disease are similar, regardless of the underlying cause of disease. However, it is important to try to identify the type of Cushing's disease as the treatment and prognosis (outcome) differ slightly depending upon the form of the disease.

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