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Types of Diagnostic Tests for Pets

Diagnostic tests are an important part of veterinary medicine, allowing your vet to test for a wide range of illnesses and diseases. In this post, our Visalia vets share some types of diagnostic testing used to diagnose a pet's condition.

Why Pets Need Lab Work

There are a variety of different types of lab work that can help identify conditions that may be causing your cat or dog to appear ill. If your pet has been feeling under the weather, diagnostic tests will be necessary to determine the exact cause so the appropriate treatment can be administered.

Different Types of Lab Testing

While there are so many different types of lab tests available, the term "lab work" is used to encompass them all. But what are the different tests that fall under veterinary laboratory diagnostics?

Here are some of the most commonly requested types of lab work and how we use our Visalia vet lab to provide the most accurate information possible:


A urinalysis is a simple pet diagnostic test that determines the physical and chemical properties of urine. It is primarily used to evaluate the health of the kidneys and urinary system, but it can also reveal issues with other organ systems.

All senior dogs and cats should have a yearly urinalysis. A urinalysis may also be recommended if your pet has been experiencing an increased water intake, increased frequency of urination, or visible blood in the urine.

There are four main parts to a urinalysis:

  • Assess appearance: color and turbidity (cloudiness).
  • Measure the concentration (also known as the density) of the urine.
  • Measure pH (acidity) and analyze the chemical composition of the urine.
  • Examine the cells and solid material (urine sediment) present in the urine using a microscope.

Urine samples should be read within 30 minutes of the collection because other factors (such as crystals, bacteria, and cells) can alter the composition (dissolve or multiply).

Heartworm Testing

Veterinarians use blood tests to check a cat or dog for heartworms. An antigen test detects specific heartworm proteins that are released by adult female heartworms into the pet’s bloodstream.  In most cases, antigen tests can accurately detect infections with one or more adult female heartworms. The earliest a vet can detect heartworm proteins in a pet’s bloodstream is roughly 5 months after it is bitten by an infected mosquito.

Because treatment for the disease can be toxic to your pet and lead to serious side effects, it is much more ideal to prevent this illness as opposed to treating it. Not only this, but the treatment can also be expensive because it requires multiple visits to the vet, hospitalization, X-rays, bloodwork, and a series of injections. This is why our Visalia vets say prevention is the absolute best way to treat heartworm disease. 

If your cat or dog is diagnosed with heartworm, your vet will have treatment options available in their veterinary pharmacy. FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride is a drug that contains arsenic and kills adult heartworms. To treat the disease melarsomine dihydrochloride will be administered via injection into your dog's back muscles.

Fecal Testing

Fecal testing for dogs is routinely performed to rule out intestinal parasites that have infected your pet's gastrointestinal system. Several types of intestinal parasites can infect pets, and their effects vary depending on the type of parasite and the cat or dog's overall health.

Fecal testing may also be performed when your dog is having acute or chronic GI tract issues, in an attempt to investigate underlying causes of the clinical signs.

You can’t usually see parasites in your pet’s feces, as they stay hidden in the body. However, the parasites will shed microscopic eggs in the feces, which is why you need fecal testing to look for these eggs.

Diagnosing these parasites helps vets appropriately treat and clear them from the GI system, often before they become an issue for your dog’s health.

CBC (Complete Blood Count)

A complete blood count (CBC) and complete blood chemistry panel, including electrolytes and urinalysis, are common vet lab tests. The CBC identifies whether there is anemia, inflammation, or infection present. It can also indicate immune system response and blood clotting ability.

The chemistry panel and electrolytes tell your vet whether your pet's liver, kidneys, and pancreas are working as they should.

This important veterinary laboratory work can also detect and help identify complex issues within a pet's internal systems. For example, blood tests for dogs can detect whether internal or environmental stimuli are causing hormonal-chemical responses. This tells a veterinarian there may be a potential problem with the pet's endocrine system.

A CBC reveals detailed information, including:

  • Hematocrit (HCT): With this test, we can identify the percentage of red blood cells to detect hydration or anemia.
  • Hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are pigments of red blood cells that carry oxygen.
  • White blood cell count (WBC): With this test, we measure the body’s immune cells. Certain diseases or infections can cause WBC to increase or decrease.
  • Granulocytes and lymphocytes/monocytes (GRANS and L/M): These are specific types of white blood cells.
  • Eosinophils (EOS): These are specific types of white blood cells that can indicate health conditions due to allergies or parasites.
  • Platelet count: (PLT): This test measures cells that form blood clots.
  • Reticulocytes (RETICS): High levels of immature red blood cells can point to regenerative anemia.
  • Fibrinogen (FIBR): We can gain important information about blood clotting from this test. High levels can indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant.

Diagnostic Testing at

Our Visalia diagnostic lab is fully equipped to diagnose the cause of your pet's illness or condition. We can also provide routine tests to check for parasites and treat your pet accordingly.

If your cat or dog hasn't been feeling well, don't wait for them to get better on their own. Bring them to our office so we can diagnose the root of their issue and get them back on their feet!

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your cat or dog been feeling under the weather? Contact our Visalia vets to have your pet diagnosed and cared for.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services is a pet emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs in the Visalia area. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

Contact (559) 739-7054