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Commentary | The Pet Corner: Diagnostic tests for pets

Recently, I was reminiscing about veterinary school, sitting in class taking notes and listening to every word my professor said.

His favorite saying at that time was “Don’t guess! Do the tests!” He was simply trying to impress upon us the importance of performing diagnostic tests.

I remember thinking it makes perfect sense, so why wouldn’t you perform diagnostic tests on every patient? Of course, after practicing veterinary medicine for 29 years, I understand exactly what my professor was talking about.

You see, a good physical exam is of utmost importance, but diagnostic tests can definitively prove or disprove your best guess.

Certainly, there are many medical conditions that may be diagnosed properly with only a physical exam. However, there are obvious limitations to even the best physical exam.

It is impossible to determine how well internal organs are functioning without diagnostic tests. Additionally, it is not uncommon for some medical conditions to look very straight forward and typical only to be disproved by certain diagnostic tests.

Many times diagnostic tests reveal normal results. Even then, the diagnostic tests can be extremely helpful by ruling out certain conditions. Plus, normal results usually give the pet owner a peace of mind which is very comforting.

There are commonly situations when pet owners don’t want certain diagnostic tests performed. There is the most difficult situation of financial constraints. It is unfortunate and at times extremely sad, but often unavoidable.

Sometimes, pet owners may even be in denial about the health of their pet. They would rather believe nothing is wrong with their pet than to be proven wrong by some diagnostic test.

Then, all pet owners have their own philosophical opinions of just how much treatment they would be willing to put their pet through. For example, many pet owners would understandably not want to put their pet through a long and grueling treatment process with a small percentage of survival. Therefore, they conclude there is no point in performing additional diagnostic tests if the prognosis is already poor.

Nevertheless, diagnostic tests are extremely important to assist veterinarians in making a proper and definitive diagnosis. Early detection of many medical conditions can make a huge difference in the prognosis.

Just like people, pets may have medical conditions without showing any clinical signs. People often have high blood pressure or high cholesterol without feeling bad. If these conditions are diagnosed early enough, treatment can be effective and prolong their lives to normal expectancy.

Pets are no different. Early detection of certain medical conditions can allow for proper treatment and prolong their lives to normal expectancy.

Diagnostic tests are the best way to find medical conditions when the patient does not have any clinical signs. Therefore, I recommend you allow your veterinarian to perform diagnostic tests when recommended.

If your veterinarian suggests diagnostic tests for your pet, “Don’t guess! Do the tests!” so you can ensure your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life.

Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.