Diagnostic Services

Harlingen Veterinary Clinic offers various specialized pet medical services for

HIGH-END CARE.

Since pets age at a much quicker rate than humans, these visits will become increasingly important in early detection of any changes in their health. 

Digital Radiology

As technology leads us into the future and improves our lives, diagnostic imaging is no exception. Digital radiology gives our practice the ability to diagnose conditions almost on the spot. This allows us to treat conditions faster and more effectively.

In the old days, a technician spent a considerable amount of time carefully positioning the x-ray machine and the pet to get just the right view of the area to be diagnosed. The x-ray films were then processed through a lab and sent back to our practice for viewing. A light box was necessary to view the films and we had only the naked eye to examine them. If perhaps the image was poor or blurry, we retook the x-rays and the whole process began again.

With today’s most current digital radiography, our practice takes the x-ray image on advanced machinery which sends it directly to digital x-ray sensors for storage and display on a computer. There is no lag time and no waiting for films to process at a separate lab. This means if the exposure is poor or if Fluffy moved a little bit, we can see the flaws immediately and retake the x-ray right then and there. We can also share the image digitally instead of sending large films out through the mail.

Like most digital images, our practice can easily enhance the digital x-ray image on the computer. We can zoom in, or change the contrast and brightness for better viewing. Plus a digital x-ray technology creates a much clearer and detailed image than traditional x-rays. In identifying and analyzing changes of an ongoing condition that requires a series of images, our practice can utilize computer programs to assist us.

Our practice uses digital radiology both for dental purposes and for your pet’s whole body. Dental digital radiology allows our practice to view the internal anatomy of the teeth including the roots and surrounding bone. In the rest of your pet’s body, digital x-rays can help us identify a fractured bone, or degeneration in a joint as well as sometimes identify foreign objects inside your pet’s body. An added bonus to digital radiology is the fact that it emits less radiation than traditional radiology.

Veterinary Ultrasound

In veterinary ultrasound, a device emits high-frequency sound waves into the animal’s body and measures when the waves bounce back. A computer interprets the pattern and creates an image on a monitor. Ultrasound is painless and requires no chemicals, radiation, or entry into the body. It is safe to use on delicate tissue like the retina, the spinal cord, and developing fetuses. With the latest in diagnostic technology, our highly skilled professional veterinary care team, and a passion for personalized care, Harlingen Veterinary Clinic provides excellence in veterinary medicine with an old-fashioned commitment to compassion and respect.

Cat Diagnostic Imaging

Veterinary diagnostic imaging includes radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, MRIs and CT scans, all of which are used as diagnostic tools to collect information on your cat’s health. The vast majority of imaging is non-invasive and completely painless. However, some imaging may require sedation or even anesthesia because the cat must be kept still to allow for adequate images to be produced. Veterinarians use these images to collect information on your cat to help them to make a medical and sometimes surgical plan.

After your veterinarian has examined your cat, he or she may want to begin to collect more information that will lead to a diagnosis and then, a treatment plan. X-rays are usually a first line of imaging. The x-ray may lead to a diagnosis which allows them to move forward with a plan. However, sometimes the next step may be ultrasound to get a more thorough or specific look at a particular area of the body.

For instance, if your cat is vomiting and feeling ill, you veterinarian may take an x-ray to look for possible causes such as obstruction of intestines or an obvious foreign body. The x-ray may show some signs of an intestinal obstruction, however, before proceeding to surgery, it would be prudent in some cases to follow with an abdominal ultrasound. The ultrasound will give more detail of the area and therefore allow more confidence of the treatment plan to move forward with surgery. Occasionally, x-rays and ultrasound allow for a definitive diagnosis but other times they will simply add more information to help put the puzzle together for the best treatment plan for your cat.

The three types of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging our veterinarians may utilize to assist in diagnosis of your cat’s condition are:

  • X-Ray
  • Ultrasound
  • Dental X-Rays

More information on each of these types of radiographs is provided below.

Cat x-rays have been in use throughout the medical community for many decades. Cat x-rays are by far the most regularly used form of diagnostic imaging in the veterinary industry because they are cost effective (comparatively speaking), and they can accurately diagnose the state of skeletal structure and composition, large body cavities, and the presence of many foreign objects. Cat x-rays are totally painless, but some cats can benefit from sedation to reduce anxiety and stress.

Cat x-rays usually proceed as follows:

  • The cat is placed on the x-ray table
  • A technician positions the x-ray machine so that the x-ray beam targets only the area of interest
  • Modern x-ray equipment allow for low levels of radiation and when used only occasionally are perfectly safe for your cat.
  • Because cat x-rays are static images, the procedure usually requires less time than a procedure like an MRI

Cat x-rays have traditionally been captured on actual film, and still can be when necessary. However, our x-ray images are now digital which allows us to capture the images on a secure server that our veterinarians can access at any time, and can also share with specialists, if necessary.

A cat ultrasound is the second most common type of diagnostic imaging tool veterinarians use to diagnose a cat’s medical condition. Ultrasounds use soundwaves to examine and photograph internal tissues in real time. An ultrasound allows a veterinarian to see into a cat’s body in real time, allowing for easy viewing of organs from different angles that are not easily achieved through x-rays. The functioning of various organs can be observed to determine if they are malfunctioning.

A cat ultrasound procedure usually proceeds as follows:

  • A cat ultrasound technician gently presses a small probe against the cat’s body that emits digital sound waves
  • The sound waves are directed to various parts of the cat’s abdominal area by manually shifting the probe’s position
  • The sound beam changes velocity while passing through varying body tissue density, which causes echoes
  • Our ultrasound equipment converts these echoes into electrical impulses that are then further transformed into a digital image that represents the appearance of the tissues
  • These images can be viewed in real time by a veterinarian, as well as stored for further review at any time

In modern scanning systems like the ones Harlingen Veterinary Clinic has on-site and uses on our feline patients, the sound beam sweeps through the body many times per second. This produces a dynamic, real-time image that changes as the cat ultrasound device moves across a cat’s body. We can use the results of an ultrasound to determine what is ailing your cat, and to devise the most effective treatment protocol.

Common symptoms that may cause a veterinary to use ultrasound include: vomiting, weight loss, kidney impairment or blockage and heart disease.

The goal of feline radiographs is to ascertain a diagnosis, or obtain a final answer without having to perform further, more invasive tests or procedures. For example, an x-ray might show evidence of a tumor of the spine and possibly involve the surrounding muscle. The addition of an MRI would reveal the specific tumor and the extent that the tumor extends into the surrounding muscle tissue. This type of information is very important for a prognosis and treatment plan.

Veterinary diagnostic imaging offers an array of incredibly useful tools within a veterinarian’s toolkit. Sometimes a diagnostic imaging session can lead to the need for further diagnostics. This is why it is important to understand that diagnostic imaging may lead to a progressive fact-finding mission that must occur in order to diagnose your cat’s ailment.

If you are concerned that your cat might be injured or experiencing internal problems, or to discuss how feline radiographs can benefit him or her, please schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians today.

Dog Diagnostic Imaging

Veterinary diagnostic imaging includes radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, MRIs and CT scans, all of which are used as diagnostic tools to collect information on your dog’s health. The vast majority of imaging is non-invasive and completely painless. However, some imaging may require sedation or even anesthesia because the dog must be kept still to allow for adequate images to be produced. Veterinarians use these images to collect information on your dog to help them to make a medical and sometimes surgical plan.

After your veterinarian has examined your dog, he or she may want to begin to collect more information that will lead to a diagnosis and then, a treatment plan. X-rays are usually a first line of imaging. The x-ray may lead to a diagnosis which allows them to move forward with a plan. However, sometimes the next step may be ultrasound to get a more thorough or specific look at a particular area of the body.

For instance, if your dog is vomiting and feeling ill, your veterinarian may take an xray to look for possible causes such as obstruction of intestines or an obvious foreign body. The x-ray may show some signs of an intestinal obstruction, however, before proceeding to surgery, it would be prudent in some cases to follow with an abdominal ultrasound. The ultrasound will give more detail of the questionable area and therefore allow more confidence of the treatment plan to move forward with surgery. Occasionally, x-rays and ultrasound allow for a definitive diagnosis but other times they will simply add more information to help put the puzzle together for the best treatment plan for your dog.

The three types of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging our veterinarians may utilize to assist in diagnosis of your dog’s condition are:

  • X-Rays
  • Ultrasounds
  • Dental X-Rays

More information on each of these types of radiographs is provided below.

 

Dog x-rays have been in use throughout the medical community for many decades. Dog x-rays are by far the most regularly used form of diagnostic imaging in the veterinary industry because they are cost effective (comparatively speaking), and they can accurately diagnose the state of skeletal structure and composition, large body cavities, and the presence of many foreign objects. Dog x-rays are totally painless, but some dogs can benefit from sedation to reduce anxiety and stress.

Dog x-rays usually proceed as follows:

  • The dog is placed on the x-ray table
  • A technician positions the x-ray machine so that the x-ray beam targets only the area of interest
  • Modern x-ray equipment allow for low levels of radiation and when used only occasionally are perfectly safe for your dog
  • Because dog x-rays are static images, the procedure usually requires less time than a procedure like an MRI

Dog x-rays have traditionally been captured on actual film, and still can be when necessary. However, our x-ray images are now digital which allows us to capture the images on a secure server that our veterinarians can access at any time, and can also share with specialists, if necessary.

A dog ultrasound is the second most common type of diagnostic imaging tool veterinarians use to diagnose a dog’s medical condition. Ultrasounds use soundwaves to examine and photograph internal tissues in real time. An ultrasound allows a veterinarian to see into a dog’s body in real time, allowing for easy viewing of organs from different angles that are not easily achieved through x-rays. The functioning of various organs and blood flow can be observed to determine if they are malfunctioning.

A dog ultrasound procedure usually proceeds as follows:

  • A dog ultrasound technician gently presses a small probe against the dog’s body that emits digital sound waves
  • The sound waves are directed to various parts of the dog’s abdominal area by manually shifting the probe’s position
  • The sound beam changes velocity while passing through varying body tissue density, which causes echoes
  • Our ultrasound equipment converts these echoes into electrical impulses that are then further transformed into a digital image that represents the appearance of the tissues
  • These images can be viewed in real time by a veterinarian, as well as stored for further review at any time

In modern scanning systems like the ones Harlingen Veterinary Clinic has on-site and uses on our canine patients, the sound beam sweeps through the body many times per second. This produces a dynamic, real-time image that changes as the dog ultrasound device moves across a dog’s body. We can use the results of an ultrasound to determine what is ailing your dog, and to devise the most effective treatment protocol.

Common symptoms that may cause a veterinary to use ultrasound include: vomiting, weight loss, kidney impairment or blockage and heart disease.

The goal of canine radiographs is to ascertain a diagnosis, or obtain a final answer without having to perform further, more invasive tests or procedures. For example, an x-ray might show some soft tissue swelling in the knee but the addition of an MRI would reveal the specific tendon or ligament tear that is causing a dog to limp and allow for a more specific treatment plan, diagnosis and prognosis.

Veterinary diagnostic imaging offers an array of incredibly useful tools within a veterinarian’s toolkit. Sometimes a diagnostic imaging session can lead to the need for further diagnostics. This is why it is important to understand that diagnostic imaging may lead to a progressive fact-finding mission that must occur in order to diagnose your dog’s ailment.

If you are concerned that your dog might be injured or experiencing internal problems, or to discuss how canine radiographs can benefit him or her, please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians today.

Cat Laboratory Testing

Sometimes in the case of an eye or ear infection, your feline friend’s medical condition affords a veterinarian the opportunity for a relatively straightforward diagnosis. However, other times the results in the need for further examination. In such a case, your veterinarian will order feline blood tests to aid in his or her investigation. The following situations can result in the need for blood tests for cats:

  • On the first veterinary visit: This is recommended to establish healthy baseline tests, and also check for any congenital abnormalities or potential concerns
  • During semi-annual wellness exams: This is recommended if your veterinarian suggests it as part of a thorough physical examination because cat blood work, along with other bodily fluids like urine, can help identify conditions the examination portion of a physical cannot
  • If a cat seems not quite right: Cat blood tests are suitable for cats that are not displaying any overt signs of illness, disease or injury, but are acting abnormal
  • Pre-surgical tests: Cat bloodwork is used to determine the general health of the liver and kidneys, which helps a veterinarian select the safest form of anesthesia. Blood work can also help determine the surgical risk level in infirmed, elderly or injured patients
  • During senior wellness exams: Cat blood tests are usually recommended for mature, senior and geriatric cats as part of their periodic wellness exams. These are extremely beneficial, as we often see senior cats return to a more youthful state of being when blood tests identify an issue that can be easily treated

At Harlingen Veterinary Clinic, blood tests for cats are processed and analyzed on premises at our in-house laboratory. Having an on-site laboratory allows us to quickly and reliably determine and diagnose a health concern, and then implement a successful medical intervention based on the results.

The four most common types of feline blood work we order are:

  • Feline Leukemia-Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: This is a common test for kittens and cats, especially those coming from unknown origins. These viruses are interspecies contagious and life threatening, so we recommend feline bloodwork to test for both if you adopt, find or take in a new kitten or cat
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): We analyze cat bloodwork to assess features of the blood, including red and white cell count, immunity status, and the measure of hemoglobin, which is the actual substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen. We also examine hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability and immune system response. A CBC is essential for cats that have symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums or loss of appetite. A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other unseen abnormalities as part of a pre-surgery risk assessment
  • Blood Serum Chemistry: We analyze cat bloodwork to evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels and more. These tests are important to evaluating the health of older cats, cats with signs of vomiting, diarrhea or toxin exposure, as well as cats receiving long-term medications and general health before anesthesia
  • Total Thyroid Level: We analyze cat bloodwork for hyperthyroidism, as well as the reverse condition, euthyroidism, or a low thyroid function that can indicate disease in a cat’s body

Additionally, our in-house laboratory can process and analyze:

  • Urinalysis
  • Stool Samples
  • Cytology

The results of feline blood tests are essential to helping veterinarians diagnose and treat medical conditions both within the blood itself, as well as in organs such as kidney and liver. During a blood test for cats, various chemicals in the blood stream are analyzed. Such as:

  • Cat blood tests can indicate a deficiency in albumin levels, which indicates a possible liver issue because albumin is produced in the liver
  • Blood tests for cats can detect abnormal hormonal-chemical responses to environmental and internal stimuli, which indicates a potential issue with the patient’s endocrine system

Once we establish a correlation, we can order any subsequent feline blood work procedures necessary to arresting and treating the condition. In this way, feline blood tests serve as very valuable tools in a veterinarian’s toolkit for helping to detect, identify, diagnose and ultimately treat illness or disease.

After we process and analyze a cat bloodwork sample, the next step is to help our patient’s human caretaker fully understand any abnormal results. Your cat’s blood work allows our veterinarians to evaluate the following:

  • Albumin (ALB): This is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage and intestinal, liver and kidney disease. 
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALKP): Elevations in this test may indicate liver damage, Cushing’s disease or active bone growth in a young cat. This test is especially significant in cats.
  • Alanine aminotansferase (ALT): This test may determine active liver damage, but does not indicate the cause. 
  • Amylase (AMYL): Elevations in this test indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): Increases in this test may indicate liver, heart or skeletal muscle damage.
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): This test determines kidney function. An increased level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver and heart disease as well as urethral obstruction, shock or dehydration.
  • Calcium (Ca): Changes in the normal level of this test can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium.
  • Cholesterol (CHOL): This test is used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease and diabetes mellitus.
  • Chloride (Cl): Chloride is an electrolyte that is typically lost with symptoms like vomiting or illnesses such as Addison’s disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration.
  • Coristol (CORT): Cortisol is a hormone that is measured in tests for Cushing’s disease (the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison’s disease (ACTH stimulation test).
  • Creatinine (CREA): This test reveals kidney function and helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN.
  • Gamma Glutamy transferase (GGT): This is an enzyme that indicates liver disease or corticosteroid excess.
  • Globulin (GLOB): This is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states.
  • Glucose (GLU): Glucose is a blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures or coma.
  • Potassium (K): This is an electrolyte typically lost with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration or urethral obstruction.  High levels can lead to cardiac arrest. 
  • Lipase (LIP): Lipase is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis.
  • Sodium (Na): Sodium is an electrolyte often lost with signs vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease and Addison’s disease. This test helps indicate hydration status.
  • Phosphorus (PHOS): Elevations in this test are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and bleeding disorders.
  • Total bilirubin (TBIL): Elevations in this test may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia.
  • Total protein: This test indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys and infectious diseases.
  • Thyroxine (T4): Thyroxine is a thyroid hormone. High levels indicate hyperthyroidism in cats.

Cat bloodwork is an essential component in the diagnosis of disease. Just like any diagnostic tool, blood tests for cats are more effective when used as part of a diagnostic plan which may include other tests. For example, elevated BUN and creatinine levels can indicate a kidney problem. However, they can also indicate mild dehydration in the period leading up to the bloodwork. This is why ordering additional testing is necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Dog Laboratory Testing

A blood test or lab test allows us to learn information about your dog’s health which can only be found from collecting a sample of blood and having it analyzed. This includes a CBC (complete blood count) and blood chemistries that analyze chemical components in the blood.

A CBC for dogs identifies and quantifies white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets in a given amount of blood. This includes analyzing the shape and condition of the cells for health and functionality. This information is helpful in learning more about your dog’s immune system (white blood cells) and oxygen carrying capacity (red blood cell count).

Additionally, blood tests for dogs can also identify:

  • Glucose
  • Proteins
  • Electrolytes
  • Cholesterol
  • Endocrine Levels
  • Digestive Enzymes

Because chemicals found in the blood stream can also correlate with specific organs, lab work for dogs can help determine more than just blood count. For example, if dog blood tests show a deficiency in albumin levels, then a veterinarian knows to examine a dog’s liver because albumin is produced in the liver,

Lab work for dogs also can detect and help identify complex problems with body systems. For example, blood tests for dogs can detect abnormal hormonal-chemical responses to environmental and internal stimuli, which alerts a veterinarian to a potential issue with the patient’s endocrine system.

So when understood in this way, canine blood tests serve as very valuable tools in a veterinarian’s toolkit for helping to detect, identify, diagnose and even treat illness or disease.

The following situations can result in dog blood work being ordered:

  • On the first veterinary visit: We recommend puppies have blood test to rule out congenital diseases, for baseline information and for pre anesthetic testing prior to spay or neuter
  • During semi-annual wellness exams: This is recommended if your veterinarian suggests it as part of a thorough physical examination because dog blood work, along with other bodily fluids like urine, can help identify conditions the examination portion of a physical cannot
  • If a dog seems not quite right: Canine blood tests are suitable for a dog that is not displaying any overt signs of illness, disease or injury, but is acting abnormal
  • Pre-surgical tests: Dog blood work is used to determine the efficiency of the liver and kidneys, which helps a veterinarian select the safest dose of anesthesia. Tests can also help determine the surgical risk level in infirmed, elderly or injured patients
  • Prior to starting a new medication: Particularly for new medication may be metabolized by the liver or kidney
  • During senior wellness exams: Dog blood tests are usually recommended for mature, senior and geriatric dogs as part of their periodic wellness exams. These are extremely beneficial, as we often see senior dogs return to a more youthful state of being when blood tests identify an issue that can be easily treated

Although our in-house dog laboratory can process any type of dog blood work or culture, some of the most common lab work for dogs we perform are:

  • Urinalysis: We evaluate your dog’s urine to reveal hydration status, infections, kidney or bladder disease, diabetes and other health conditions
  • Fecal Exam: We evaluate your dog’s stool sample for color, consistency, as well as the presence of blood or mucus. We then examine it under a microscope for intestinal parasites, fungus, or protozoa
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): We analyze your dog’s blood to assess features of the blood, including red and white cell count, immunity status, and the measure of hemoglobin, which is the actual substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen
  • Blood Clotting Times: We test your dog’s blood for bleeding disorders
  • Blood Chemistries: We identify the status of your dog’s internal organs, and also gauge their health before anesthetizing for surgery
  • Cytology: We collect samples of sebum and cellular debris on the skin and in the ears to determine if infection is present. In addition, we may perform needle or core biopsy of lumps or masses on your dog’s body to look for cancer cells.

We recommend discussing lab tests for dogs with your veterinarian, in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not your canine friend can benefit from dog blood work.

Harlingen Veterinary Clinic uses an outside laboratory to process most of our blood and urine samples and we have an an in-house laboratory as well.  This means we can process all kinds of lab work for dogs quickly and reliably, and in emergency situations, when time is of the essence, our in-house dog laboratory is most helpful.

After all, if we can draw, process and analyze dog blood work on the premises, then we can have the results we need immediately. This increases the chances that we can determine what the issue is, and then implement a successful medical intervention based on the results. In this way, our dog laboratory allows us to be a proactive and timely partner in your dog’s health and care.

Understanding dog blood tests is second nature to us. However, we understand that the same might not be said for you. This is why we always fully explain the results of canine blood tests with a patient’s human caretakers. After all, arresting and treating whatever a blood test indicates takes an informed and concerted team effort. If we are ordering dog blood work, it will most likely be in the form of a Complete Blood Count, or else a Blood Chemistry (serum) test.

The Complete Blood Count, or CBC, shows a veterinarian your dog’s hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability and immune system response. A CBC is essential for dog that have symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums or loss of appetite. If your dog needs surgery, a CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other unseen abnormalities. Specifically, a Complete Blood Count provides detailed information including:

  • Hematocrit (HCT): This test measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and hydration
  • Hemoglobin and mean corpulscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are the oxygen-carrying pigments of red blood cells
  • White blood cell count (WBC): This test measures the body’s immune cells. Increases or decreases in the WBC indicate certain diseases or infections
  • Granulocytes and lymphocytes/monocytes (GRANS and L/M): These are specific types of white blood cells
  • Eosinophils (EOS): These are a specific type of white blood cells that may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions
  • Platelet count (PLT): This test measures cells that form blood clots
  • Reticulocytes (RETICS): These are are immature red blood cells. High levels indicate regenerative anemia
  • Fibrinogen (FIBR): This test provides important information about blood clotting. High levels may indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant

Blood Chemistries, or blood serum tests, evaluate a dog’s organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels and more. These tests are important to evaluating the health of older dogs, dogs with signs of vomiting, diarrhea or toxin exposure, as well as dogs receiving long-term medications and general health before anesthesia.

  • Albumin (ALB): This is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage and intestinal, liver and kidney disease
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALKP): Elevations in this test may indicate liver damage, Cushing’s disease or active bone growth in a young dog
  • Alanine aminotansferase (ALT): This test may determine active liver damage, but does not indicate the cause
  • Amylase (AMYL): Elevations in this test indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): Increases in this test may indicate liver, heart or skeletal muscle damage
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): This test determines kidney function. An increased level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver and heart disease as well as urethral obstruction, shock or dehydration
  • Calcium (Ca): Changes in the normal level of this test can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium
  • Cholesterol (CHOL): This test is used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease and diabetes mellitus
  • Chloride (Cl): Chloride is an electrolyte that is typically lost with symptoms like vomiting or illnesses such as Addison’s disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration
  • Coristol (CORT): Cortisol is a hormone that is measured in tests for Cushing’s disease (the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison’s disease (ACTH stimulation test)
  • Creatinine (CREA): This test reveals kidney function and helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN
  • Gamma Glutamy transferase (GGT): This is an enzyme that indicates liver disease or corticosteroid excess
  • Globulin (GLOB): This is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states
  • Glucose (GLU): Glucose is a blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures or coma
  • Potassium (K): This is an electrolyte typically lost with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration or urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest
  • Lipase (LIP): Lipase is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis
  • Sodium (Na): Sodium is an electrolyte often lost with signs of vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease and Addison’s disease. This test helps indicate hydration status
  • Phosphorus (PHOS): Elevations in this test are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and bleeding disorders
  • Total bilirubin (TBIL): Elevations in this test may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia
  • Total protein: This test indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys and infectious diseases
  • Thyroxine (T4): Thyroxine is a thyroid hormone. Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs

In order to determine which dog blood tests can best benefit your canine friend, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian today.

Cardiology For Cats

A cat’s heart has four chambers. The two upper chambers are called the atrium (plural atria), and the lower chambers are called the ventricles. Additionally, the heart has a right and left side, each containing one atrium and one ventricle. A cat’s heart works as follows:

  • Veins carry exhausted blood from the body to the right atrium
  • Blood is stored in the right atrium momentarily until being pumped into the right ventricle
  • The right ventricle pumps the blood into the lungs, where it is infused with fresh oxygen
  • The blood then flows from the lungs back into the heart via the left ventricle
  • The largest muscle of the heart, which is located in the left ventricle, pumps the freshly oxygenated blood to all other organs and body parts
  • Once the blood is circulated and exhausted, veins carry it back toward the heart via the right atrium to begin the process again

Although general veterinary practitioners can diagnose and treat many conditions, treating heart problems in cats requires specialized training in veterinary cardiology.

Our veterinarians and support staff are well trained, highly empathetic, and understanding of the fact that it is necessary to focus on both the emotional and medical aspects of treating cats with cancer. We are here to work with you to make sure you have a good understanding of your cat’s illness and to help you make decisions that will be best for you and your cat.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), which literally means disease of the heart muscle, is a cardiac condition that causes a thickening and/or stretching of the heart’s walls. The two main forms of cardiomyopathy are Dilated and Restrictive.

  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) causes the heart muscle to weaken, which results in the heart becoming enlarged and contracting (or moving blood) weakly
  • Restrictive Cardiomyopathy (RCM) and are identified but lesser understood than DCM, including having no known causes or treatments presently available

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is usually diagnosed once a veterinarian rules out secondary causes of thickening, including:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Systemic hypertension
  • Aortic stenosis

Although there are many types of potential heart problems in cats, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is by far the most common heart condition to affect the feline population.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), heart disease in cats affects 1 of every 10 cats worldwide. Heart disease is a condition in which an abnormality of the heart is present. Heart disease in cats is a medical precursor to congestive heart failure in cats, because heart disease can lead to congestive heart failure in cats if untreated.

Heart disease in cats can be either congenital or acquired:

  • Congenital heart disease in cats is present at birth, and can be inherited from the parents
  • Acquired, or adult onset heart disease in cats often occurs in middle-aged to older animals due to wear and tear on the heart structures, but can also result from an injury or infection

While cardiomyopathy is the most common form of acquired, adult onset heart problems in cats, the two most common types of congenital heart disease in cats are:

  • Malformations of a heat valve
  • Defects in the wall that divides the right and left halves of the heart

Both types of congenital heart disease cause blood to flow abnormally through the defect. The disturbance in the blood flow causes abnormal vibration or a heart murmur in cats. There are also various stages of heart disease and congestive heart failure in cats that veterinarians use to determine severity:

  • Asymptomatic: Heart disease in cats is detected, but there is a lack of any outward signs. Additionally, a heart murmur in cats or arrhythmia may also be present.
  • Mild to moderate heart failure: Significant clinical signs of congestive heart failure are in evidence both at rest and while active.
  • Advanced heart failure: Critical clinical signs are evident, including respiratory distress, ascites (fluid in the body cavity), and profound exercise intolerance.The prognosis will worsen with each passing stage, and the need for aggressive treatment will increase.

There are several possible symptoms of heart problems in cats that cat owners can be on the lookout for, including:

  • Lethargy/weakness/inactivity
  • Difficulty with or discontinuing exercise
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing possibly accompanied by fluid buildup in the lungs and chest
  • Sudden paralysis of the hind quarters
  • Fast breathing during dormancy (not panting)
  • Fainting/collapse
  • Chronic coughing
  • Regularly elevated heart rate

The above symptoms can indicate one of many possible conditions, including feline heart disease and potentially something unrelated to the cardiovascular system. If you notice any of the above symptoms, we recommend scheduling an appointment with our veterinary cardiologist immediately.

Diagnosing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats begins with one of the most effective diagnostic tools for detecting heart disease in cats: a cardiac examination. A cardiac examination allows us to follow a thorough investigative protocol to determine the presence and extent of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats. A cardiac examination can include some or all of the following procedures:

  • Physical exam: We listen to your cat’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal sounds
  • Ultrasound: We can view and measure your cat’s heart’s chamber, valves and muscles, as well as the major cardiac vessels using soundwaves and without any pain or invasion
  • Blood pressure: We perform a standard, non-invasive blood pressure test to monitor systolic and diastolic pressure
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): We measure the electrical activity of your cat’s heart to diagnose heart murmur in cats, among other conditions
  • X-Rays: We can view the heart’s overall size, its positioning in the chest, and the general condition of the lungs
  • Blood analysis: We can perform a complete blood work chemistry to help assess the general health of our patient

A blood chemistry analysis can also determine the level of thyroid hormone present in the bloodstream. This is very helpful when evaluating hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats, because an overactive thyroid gland can be an underlying cause of heart disease.

Presently, there is no cure for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats. Changes to the size and structure of the heart muscle are irreversible. The longer HCM is allowed to go untreated, the more severe any changes become. However, in some cases where the heart disease is secondary to a treatable condition such as hyperthyroidism, then the symptoms may be alleviated when the underlying condition is corrected.

The good news is that your veterinarian can prescribe several different types of medication that help reduce the risk of congestive heart failure in cats resulting from HCM. In some cases, medication can help:

  • Relax the heart muscle
  • Slow down heart rate
  • Decrease the workload of the heart

These changes provide the heart more time to fill and drain, thus allowing for a reduced chance of damage and failure. Because heart medication is modifying the function of the heart, it is important to strictly follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for dosage and administration frequency.

Owners of cats with HCM should monitor their feline friends for any changes in their condition, even if they seem minor at first glance. This includes learning how to monitor respiratory rates and other vital signs at home, which a veterinarian can help with. It is also important to come in for an exam with any changes in your cat’s health or behavior and keep up all recheck appointments for the best outcome.

Many felines diagnosed with HCM eventually develop signs of congestive heart failure. Cats with HCM are at risk for developing blood clots that can escape the heart and eventually become lodged in a blood vessel that has become too narrow. This is called a thromboembolism. A common area for this to occur is the hind quarters region, at the point the aorta splits before going into each rear leg. If this happens, paralysis and severe pain will result. In fact, the paralysis and pain are very common reasons many owners initially bring their cat to see a veterinarian. However, what they thought might be a broken leg or lameness is actually hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats.

With supportive veterinary and in-home family care, between 40%-50% of patients with thromboembolic disease can internally break down clots and regain some amount of limb function over time.

Due to the nature of how blood clots fragment and disperse throughout the body, cats that experience blood clotting once are at a significantly increased risk of developing another clot within the following weeks or months. Because of the somber prognosis for cats that have suffered a thromboembolic event, some owners elect euthanasia.

Even though hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats is incurable, the old saying, an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure, still greatly applies to cats living with heart disease or congestive heart failure for cats in one form or another. This is because if HCM is detected and arrested in its mild to moderate stages, then the prognosis for an essentially normal life for a number of years can be good. However, the form and severity of the disease at the time of discovery will ultimately dictate the prognosis in all cases. Additionally:

  • HCM can worsen quickly or progress slowly over a period of years
  • HCM can remain undetected in some cats until the advanced stages, and the time between diagnosis and death can be a matter of weeks or months
  • HCM can remain mild in some cats and never progress to the advanced stages, while other cats will progress to the advanced stages despite medical intervention

The existence of these variables and possibilities make both preventive and follow up care of the utmost importance where heart disease and congestive heart failure are concerned.

Cardiology For Dogs

Canine cardiology is the medical field that treats a dog’s cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and blood vessels. A dog cardiologist can diagnose and help develop a treatment protocol for canines that suffer from:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Dilated and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Valvular Disorders

The interrelated functioning of a dog’s heart and lungs means that a dog cardiologist is also knowledgeable about lung disease, as well as other conditions within the chest cavity. Although general veterinary practitioners can diagnose and treat many conditions, treating heart disease requires specialized, thorough training in dog cardiology. 

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), heart disease in dogs affects 1 of every 10 dogs worldwide. Dog heart disease is a condition in which an abnormality of the heart is present. Heart disease in dogs can lead to heart failure if untreated.

Heart disease in dogs can be either congenital or acquired:

  • Congenital heart disease in dogs is present at birth, and can be inherited from the parents
  • Acquired heart disease in dogs often occurs in middle-aged to older animals due to wear and tear on the heart structures, but can also result from an injury or infection

There are several common causes of congenital dog heart disease, including:

  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA): The most commonly diagnosed of all the heart problems in dogs, and happens when the vessel connecting the aorta and pulmonary artery in the developing fetus (known as the ductus arteriosus) does not close properly shortly after birth
  • Aortic stenosis (or subaortic stenosis): Most commonly seen in large breed dogs, and results in a narrowing or partial blockage of the aorta as it leaves the left ventricle of the heart. The aorta is responsible for transporting blood to the rest of the body
  • Pulmonic stenosis: A narrowing of the valve that allows blood to flow from the heart to the lungs, it is the third most common congenital heart defect seen in dogs
  • Ventricular septal defects: This results from the presence of a hole between the heart’s right and the left ventricles
  • A persistent right aortic arch: This results from a fetal structure (known as an aortic arch) that does not deteriorate as it should, but instead it encircles a dog’s esophagus and causes abnormalities in the esophagus’ growth and function

Some common causes of acquired dog heart disease include:

  • Valvular disease affects all dog breeds, but is especially common in toy and small dog breeds. The most commonly affected valve is the mitral valve, but other heart valves can also be affected
  • Myocardial disease also called cardiomyopathy, affects the heart’s muscle structure. Cardiomyopathy affects all dog breeds, but is most commonly diagnosed in large dogs
  • Cardiac arrhythmias are abnormal heart beats or heart rhythms resulting from dog heart disease that affects the heart’s (electric) regulatory system and thus, the ability for the heart to beat properly
  • Pericardial disease affects the pericardium, or the sac that surrounds the heart, by restricting the heart so it is unable to beat properly

Additionally, acquired dog heart disease can come from infections and viruses like heartworm or parvovirus. Because many of these types of heart disease share symptoms and characteristics with each other, proper diagnoses require consultation with a dog cardiologist.

Congestive heart failure in dogs occurs when the heart is no longer able to support the circulatory system. Although geriatric or sedentary dogs may show no apparent symptoms of congestive heart failure until its advanced stages, habitually active adult dogs usually show some common signs of distress. A few prevalent symptoms of congestive heart failure in dogs include:

  • Coughing
  • Edema
  • Rapid breathing

There are various stages of congestive heart failure in dogs that veterinarians use to determine severity:

  • Asymptomatic: Dog heart disease is detected, but there is a lack of any outward signs. Additionally, a cardiac murmur or arrhythmia may also be present
  • Mild to moderate heart failure: Significant clinical signs of congestive heart failure are in evidence both at rest and while active
  • Advanced heart failure: Critical clinical signs are evident, including respiratory distress, ascites (fluid in the body cavity), and profound exercise intolerance.The prognosis will worsen with each passing stage, and the need for aggressive treatment will increase

There are several possible symptoms of heart problems in dogs that dog owners can be on the lookout for, including:

  • Lethargy/weakness/exercise intolerance
  • Difficulty with or discontinuing exercise
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing possibly accompanied by fluid buildup in the lungs and chest
  • Fast breathing during dormancy (not panting)
  • Fainting/collapse
  • Chronic coughing
  • Regularly elevated heart rate

Because these symptoms of heart problems in dogs can indicate one of many possible conditions, and potentially even something unrelated to the cardiovascular system, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian immediately if you suspect anything out of the ordinary.

Early detection of dog heart disease requires due diligence on the part of dog owners. After all, a dog cannot articulate to human beings how it feels in a language we can understand. One of the most effective diagnostic tools for detecting dog heart disease is a cardiac examination. A dog cardiologist can employ some or all of the following procedures during a cardiac examination:

  • Physical exam: We listen to your dog’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal sounds
  • Ultrasound: We can view and measure your dog’s heart’s chamber, valves and muscles, as well as the major cardiac vessels using soundwaves and without any pain or invasion
  • Blood pressure: We perform a standard, non-invasive blood pressure test to monitor systolic and diastolic pressure
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): We measure the electrical activity of your dog’s heart to diagnose heart arrhythmias among other conditions
  • X-Rays: With diagnostic imaging such as x-rays, we can view the heart’s overall size, its positioning in the chest, and the general condition of the lungs
  • Blood analysis: We can perform a complete blood work chemistry to detect chemical deficiencies or surpluses that indicate cardiovascular issues

Many of the same heart medicines that medical professionals employ to treat human heart patients are currently available in veterinary medicine as well. These includes various types of heart medicine that has been proven effective for dogs. Choosing the correct medication and dosage will depend upon the diagnosis and stage of the heart disease. Follow up visits and progress checks are extremely important to determine the efficacy and response to treatment. This information will greatly aid our doctors in helping to insure that your dog has the best outcome for the longest time possible. We will work with you to give them the best quality of life possible.

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