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Diagnosis

  • Seizures typically occur for three main reasons, but finding the cause can be difficult. Finding the cause of a pet's seizures can be difficult and usually starts with a complete history and physical examination. Your veterinarian will likely recommend screening tests to look for metabolic disease and other illnesses that can cause seizures. Screening tests are a series of simple tests that provide information about the overall health of the pet. There are many additional tests that can be done depending on the results of history, physical examination, and screening tests.

  • Sneezing and nasal discharge can occur for many different reasons including infection, allergy, foreign body, and tumors. A thorough history and physical exam is the first step in diagnosing the cause of sneezing/nasal discharge. Initial screening tests include CBC, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and coagulation testing. These tests can be used to indicate the safety of general anesthesia needed for additional testing. Specific testing that may be recommended for determining the cause of nasal discharge/sneezing may include nasal swab for cytology, radiographs of the nasal cavity, nasal flush for cytology, culture and sensitivity testing, and rhinoscopy. Chest radiographs, specific micro-organism DNA testing, more advanced imaging such as CT or MRI, and biopsy may be considered based on initial test results.

  • Most bleeding (or hemorrhage) is caused by trauma. There is usually a wound or a history of injury to explain why a pet is bleeding. Typically, the bleeding stops when a blood clot forms at the site of injury.

  • Many problems can lead to vomiting, some easier to diagnose than others. Simple acute vomiting with no other clinical signs may not require diagnostic testing, but if vomiting 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.

  • Pets that feel weak often have difficulty getting to their feet and move slowly or unsteadily. Other signs include shaky muscles, fainting, or collapse. You may find your pet does not want to exercise, seems dull, and does not respond when you call.

  • Weight loss in dogs can be caused by many conditions including inadequate intake to meet energy requirements, poor quality nutrition, and many different medical conditions. Testing for weight loss starts with a thorough history and physical exam. If the cause of weight loss is not clear, then screening tests including a CBC, biochemistry, urinalysis, and fecal tests are performed to further investigate. Based on the results of these tests, more specific diagnostic tests such as imaging, bile acids, or ACTH stimulation may be needed to determine the reason for the weight loss.

  • Diagnosis of hyperthyroidism includes screening the hormone output of the thyroid as well as screening for other systemic disease. This is achieved by running a complete blood count, biochemistry panel, urinalysis and total T4 (tT4). In cats with signs of hyperthyroidism but with tT4 levels in the upper half of the reference range will often have their free thyroid hormone tested using a special test called equilibrium dialysis. More advanced screening for hyperthyroidism includes the t3 suppression test and advanced imaging of the thyroid called scintigraphy.

  • Diagnosis of hypothyroidism includes a complete blood count, biochemistry profile urinalysis and thyroid-related hormones. Anemia, elevated cholesterol and mild liver enzymes are supportive of a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Assessing thyroid hormone output can be difficult as other diseases and medications can suppress blood thyroxine levels. A combination of measurements of total T4, free T4 by equilibrium dialysis, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is generally used to confirm a diagnosis. Measurements of total T4 may be used to monitor thyroid levels if your dog requires hormone replacement therapy.

  • Trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI) is a blood test that measures the amount of a pancreatic proenzyme called trypsinogen. This measurement correlates with the amount of pancreatic enzymes released into the intestine to aid in digestion. A low measurement indicates exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Concurrent pancreatitis or tests done shortly after a meal may temporarily increase this measurement to a normal value (false negative).

  • Ultrasound uses the reflection of sound waves to generate an image of internal structures allowing for identification of masses, pregnancy diagnosis, abnormal heart function and muscle size, abnormalities of the orbit, and abnormal appearance of abdominal organs. It cannot be used to identify abnormalities in areas of air such as the lungs, or areas surrounded by bone. Ultrasound-guided biopsies can be taken of abnormal areas which are sent to a pathologist for interpretation. Anesthesia is generally not needed unless tissue biopsies are planned. Shaving of fur is recommended to allow best contact of the probe with the skin to produce the most diagnostic images. Ultrasound results can be analyzed in real time; however, assessment by a radiologist may take several days. Ultrasound is an invaluable tool to detect problems in a non-invasive fashion.