Educational Articles

Dogs + Diagnosis

  • A fecal occult blood test screens for the presence of hemoglobin (a component of red blood cells) in a fecal sample. Many conditions can cause blood to appear in the stool including intestinal ulceration, neoplasia, dental disease, and parasites. More testing is needed if the fecal occult blood test is positive. False negatives can occur from intermittent bleeding. False positives can also occur from what the pet has eaten in the last 3 days, such as raw/undercooked meat, raw vegetables, and some canned foods. Your veterinarian may suggest repeat tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

  • Cytology is the microscopic examination of cells that have been collected from body tissues. Fine needle aspiration (FNA), also called fine needle biopsy, is the most frequently used technique in cytology. It is typically used to sample lumps and bumps on the body; however, it is also used to evaluate internal organs and body fluids. A sterile fine gauge needle is attached to an empty syringe and is introduced into the tissue. The tissue cells or fluid are aspirated when the plunger of the syringe is drawn back while the needle is held in the tissue. The cells are placed onto a clean glass slide, dried, and stained with special dyes. The cells are then examined under a microscope. Cytology by FNA does not always provide a diagnosis but contributes valuable information that ultimately leads to a final diagnosis.

  • Flow cytometry is a laboratory technique that can be used for counting, examining, and sorting cells. The sample is passed through a light source and as the cells move through the path of the light source, they scatter the light. The scattered light is captured by lenses, translated into an electrical signal, and is then analyzed and displayed as a graphical representation of the cell populations within the sample. Flow cytometry is used to count and group cells within a blood sample. It is also used in the characterization of cellular subpopulations; for example, to distinguish between benign and malignant lymphocytes.

  • Food allergies can be problematic for many dogs, especially after years on the same diet. Clinical signs may manifest as gastrointestinal or skin problems. Some animal proteins are the most common causes and strict avoidance is the best way to treat affected dogs. An eight to twelve-week elimination diet trial on a special veterinary diet is the only definitive method to diagnose a food allergy and, in some cases, the veterinary diet may need to be continued long-term.

  • Gastrointestinal endoscopy uses a flexible tube with a camera or viewing port to inspect the esophagus, stomach, proximal small intestine, or colon for evidence of disease-causing clinical signs characteristic of gastrointestinal disease. Foreign bodies can often be retrieved. Biopsies are taken of abnormal and normal tissue, as not all conditions cause gross changes to the stomach or intestinal surface. The endoscope cannot reach all areas of the small intestine, so other tests may be needed to diagnose disease in these areas. Endoscopic pinch biopsies are not full thickness so if diagnosis is not achieved with endoscopic biopsies, additional testing including surgical biopsies may be needed. 12-18 hours fasting and enemas are required prior to endoscopy depending on the area being studied.

  • Genetic (DNA) testing is readily available, whether you are using it for fun to find out what breeds your pet is made up of or if you are looking into possible medical conditions. DNA samples can be collected either from a cheek swab or a blood draw. Knowing which breeds your pet is made up of can help you and your veterinarian prevent or prepare for health issues in the future.

  • A Holter monitor is a portable device used to continuously monitor the electrical activity of the heart and can be an effective and non-invasive way to help your veterinarian evaluate heart conditions especially when trying to determine the cause of fainting episodes or evaluate treatment. Many dogs are not bothered by it and ignore its presence.

  • The term hypercalcemia is used when the level of calcium in the blood is higher than normal. Calcium levels are controlled by a pair of parathyroid glands. High calcium levels may signal the presence of serious underlying disease including kidney failure, adrenal gland failure, a parathyroid gland tumor, and some types of cancer. Pets with hypercalcemia may show signs of weakness, listlessness, increased drinking and urination, and loss of appetite. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests which may include total calcium, ionized calcium, albumin, and parathyroid hormone levels.

  • Infertility in a female dog is defined as the inability to conceive and deliver viable puppies, even when mated multiple times with a known fertile male surrounding the time of ovulation. This handout outlines the varying causes of infertility in female dogs and how they may be diagnosed and treated.

  • Infertility in a male dog is defined as the inability to produce a successful pregnancy in a fertile female, even with multiple breedings near the time of ovulation. The causes of infertility fall under three broad categories: failure to copulate or ejaculate, poor semen quality, and prostatic disease. This handout explains the possible causes in detail, as well as methods to diagnose and treat them.

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Upper Middle Road Animal Hospital
1450 Headon Rd - Unit 3
Burlington, ON L7M 3Z5

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