You don’t know what you don’t know…
There is a wealth of information to be gained from getting a thorough history, and doing a complete physical exam. These may give a suspicion of one, or even several conditions that could be responsible for the clinical signs a patient is displaying.
To really figure it out, though, to narrow down which condition is responsible and just how bad it is, takes data from laboratory testing.
Some tests, we can do right in the clinic:
- Urine Analysis – assessing the concentration of the urine, measuring chemical parameters, and centrifuging the urine to look at all the solids present – cells, crystals, bacteria.
- Cytology – taking a sample of cells from a mass or lesion, and staining them to look at them on the microscope. This can help identify a type on infection (eg bacterial vs yeast/fungal), or determine if cancerous cells are present.
- Skin scraping – to identify parasitic mites in the skin.
We can also send sample off to the reference laboratory. These give us information on:
- Organ function – liver, kidney, pancreas
- Blood electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, phosphorous, calcium
- Blood cell counts
- Hormone function – such as adrenal gland and thyroid gland
- Heart function
- Parasites in the blood or intestine
- Infections – a culture not only identifies the type of bacteria present, but tests to see which antibiotics are effective against them
- Biopsies, of diseased tissues or of tumours
- Even DNA testing to identify what types of pathogens (viruses, bacteria or fungi) are involved in a particular disease condition