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Laboratory Medicine

Laboratory medicine is a diagnostic tool used to help identify the cause of your pet’s illness or ailment. Blood and urine samples can often be taken during a consultation but occasionally we will ask you to leave your pet with us for a few hours so a series of samples can be taken.

We also routinely offer a pre-anaesthetic blood test to all animals coming in for procedures under general anaesthetic or sedation.

Blood or urine taken from your pet will be examined chemically and microscopically. We can perform a wide variety of laboratory tests at Beech House including routine biochemistry and haematology, urine analysis and some virus tests. Some samples are sent to an external laboratory for more complex tests including faecal analysis, skin scrapes andhistopathology.

Blood
Our in house laboratory machines enable us to analyse your pet’s blood profile and have a result within 30 minutes. We are able to measure a variety of biochemical parameters which will detail the function of the major organs including the liver, kidneys, pancreas, heart and intestines. Haematological parameters will tell us the Red and White cell counts which can indicate any dehydration, infection and anaemia. These combined can help us to diagnose and treat your pet’s condition.

Blood sampling is done through the jugular vein in the neck or a front leg and is well tolerated by most animals. This area will be shaved and cleaned in preparation for sampling.

Urine
In house urine tests include specific gravity using a refractometer, pH (acidity or alkalinity), the presence of glucose and ketones, red and white blood cells and proteins. These simple tests can tell us about many diseases including kidney dysfunction, diabetes, hydration status and bladder infections. We also have a very sensitive urine test that measures microalbuminaemia which can indicate very early renal dysfunction. Spinning a sample of urine and examining the sediment under the microscope will show any crystals, proteins and bacteria that may be present.

We often send urine to our external laboratory for more specific tests that to aid the diagnosis and treatment of your pet’s condition.

How to Collect a urine sample:

Click for more information on how to collect a urine sample in your cat or your dog

Faeces
All faecal samples are sent to our external laboratory! Most commonly a faecal sample will be requested if your pet has a problem with diarrhoea or constipation. The analysis will indicate any parasites or bacteria present that could be contributing to the problem. The recent increase in cases of Lungworm (angiostrogylus vasorum) in the South has seen an increase in the number of faecal samples sent to the laboratory. For this specific test you will need to provide us with 3 samples taken on 3 consecutive days.

We will provide you with a pot to collect the sample into and some gloves if you require them. Always remember to wash your hands after handling faeces.

Virus Tests
We are able to test for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) and Canine Parvoviris; viral diseases affecting cats and dogs in house. Some viral tests including Feline Calici, Herpes and Chlamydia viruses and Canine Leptospirosis will need to be sent to a specialist laboratory for analysis.

Skin Sampling
Skin scrapes are done to identify the presence of any ectoparasites (mites) living in the top layers of your pet’s skin. These samples are routinely done in our own laboratory. Samples are taken from the affected areas using a blade to scrape away the first few layers of skin cells.

Hair plucks and swabs are taken to test for fungal and bacterial infections using a culture medium. These tests usually take 7-10 days for a result.

Histopathology
If your pet comes in to have a lump or bump removed we will often recommend that we send this to the external laboratory for histopathology. This involves slicing the lump very thinly and examining the cells under the microscope. This will tell us what type of cells we are dealing with, if it is a cancerous cell, what the prognosis is and the likelihood of recurrence. We will then be able to come up with a treatment plan based on these findings specific to your pet and the diagnosis.

Any biopsies that are taken from your pet will also be sent for histopathology. Most commonly biopsies are taken from the intestines, liver and skin either through a needle or via a surgical incision.

A word of warning
No laboratory test is 100% accurate; there may be false positives or false negatives. Testing is most accurate when it is targeted at a particular organ or condition. If preliminary tests are inconclusive it is frequently necessary to perform further investigations (which may include x-rays, ultrasound scans, ECG, etc) or repeat the initial test at a later date.

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