Village Vets Centre Liverpool 0151 428 8600 0151 428 8600
Village Vets  Centre Liverpool    0151 428 8600   0151 428 8600

Laboratory Testing

Laboratory testing is a vital part of veterinary medicine and we often have to do tests as part of a complete diagnostic work-up. There are many reasons why this may need to be performed. Animals may have vague signs of illness or show signs that are common to many different diseases, in order to distinguish the cause we often need to perform tests. Certain medications may be dangerous to use in some circumstances e.g. pets with liver or kidney problems and we may need testing to see if it is safe to use the medication or not. Animals that are on long-term medication may need repeated testing to monitor levels of the drug in their bodies to reduce the risk of side-effects. Testing also ensures that we use the correct medication, this is very important in the case of antibiotics where resistance is common and renders treatment ineffective.

What Tests Might We Need?

  1. Tests to identify bacterial infections (this may include blood tests or collection of urine and faecal samples).
  2. Blood tests. We can use these to investigate if there are problems with the kidneys, liver, other organs or if there is signs of infection.
  3. X rays. We use these to look inside the body to see if there are any abnormal changes.
  4. Tissue tests. We send a sample of tissue that has been removed to a veterinary pathologist for them to look at.
  5. Ultrasound tests. Ultrasound tests vary with the problem. For example pregnancy diagnosis needes a relatively simple ultrasound machine  but looking at things like the heart and liver require very sophisticated ultrasound equipment and referrral to a specialist.

 

Testing is performed much more often in reptiles (snakes, lizards, terrapins and tortoises) than in cats and dogs due to their excellent ability to hide signs of illness. You can find out more information below.

Does Testing Always Work?

In many cases, testing will allow us to determine what is wrong with your pet, however doing tests does not guarantee a diagnosis. In some cases test results may indicate that we need to do further, often different tests. In other cases, results may not be helpful either way and we may need to repeat testing at a later date. Testing might at least let us know what is not wrong with your animal, whether it is worth trying to treat them, or if there is a risk to you as owners and in fact that euthanasia is the correct thing to do. 

 

Clients will sometimes ask whether there a guarantee that their animal will get better before they pay for their tests. We are dealing with biological systems there are no guarantees. We cannot guarantee a diagnosis even with testing. It is the same in human medicine, after six months of testing in one of our own family members no diagnosis was made and probably never will be.

Testing for Bacterial Infections

One of the most common tests we perform is to identify which type of bacteria may be causing an infection and which is the best antibiotic to treat the infection. Below is an example of a test result taken from a dog with a skin infection, it was infected with a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa (pronounced sue duh moe nass). Under 'sensitivities' are several different types of antibiotic that are available to treat the infection, we can use this information to determine which is the best to use to treat the infection.

                               MICROBIOLOGY
Sample Site Swab from foot dermatitis Culture Aerobic cultures show a heavy predominant growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Selective Yeast / Fungal cultures: Negative
SENSITIVITIES
Augmentin RESISTANT (i.e. it will not work) Ceftazidime Sensitive Gentamicin Sensitive Amikacin Sensitive Enrofloxacin RESISTANT (i.e. it will not work) Marbofloxacin RESISTANT (i.e. it will not work) Doxycycline RESISTANT (i.e. it will not work) Metronidazole RESISTANT (i.e. it will not work) Sulph. Trim RESISTANT (i.e. it will not work) Tetracycline RESISTANT (i.e.it will not work) Clindamycin RESISTANT (i.e.it will not work) Cephalexin RESISTANT (i.e.it will not work)

This bacteria was tested against 12 antibiotics and only three worked.  The three that worked are not licensed for use in dogs. If we had just tried one antibiotic after another we would have spent 45 days and 9 visits using drugs that did not work - all at increased cost to the owner. It may appear on first glance that testing is expensive, but using it can actually dramatically reduce the overall costs with the added advantage of a much faster resolution of signs in your pet!

 

This is especially true of reptiles where it is common to have more than one type of bacteria present in an infection, they are often both resistant to several antibiotics. An example of its importance occurred in a snake that had a burn injury. The testing showed that it was infected with a type of Pseudomonas bacteria (which can infect people), Salmonella bacteria (which can also infect people) and Bacteroides bacteria.  This snake was put on antibiotic injections, special burn cream and oral antibiotics.


If the snake had started on antibiotics without testing and it had not worked we would have had to either keep trying different ones until we found one that worked, or stop the antibiotics for two weeks and then test but the snake would probably have died because of the delay.

Blood Testing

Blood tests are used to check if your pet:

  • is anaemic (does not have enough blood cells)
  • has changes to its white blood cells
  • has an infection
  • has problems with its kidneys, liver or some other internal organs
  • has mineral imbalances

 

All of this can provide extremely useful information and may be used in conjunction with a urine or faecal sample.

X-Rays

This may be referred to as 'radiography' and is a highly useful diagnostic tool. We can examine:

 

  • general bone density
  • fractures and broken bones
  • some foreign bodies, obstructions or bladder stones (but not all)
  • fluid build up in the chest or abdomen 
  • certain types of tumours or abnormal internal organs

Testing for Viruses

This may be done through blood testing, faeces testing or saliva testing. In some cases it can be quite hit-and-miss as certain viruses are very good at hiding to avoid being detected by the immune system and this can make testing difficult.

Testing Faecal Samples for Intestinal Parasites

To make the results as accurate as possible it is important to collect droppings over a few days and not let them get too dry.  It is often easier for owners to send the faeces direct to PALS Veterinary Laboratories (the laboratory who we send our faecal samples to) to be tested. The most useful test at PALS Laboratory is 'Reptile Faeces 2' as this will cover parasites e.g. Worms or Coccidia and bacteria e.g. Salmonella and Campylobacter. This is not the cheapest test but it is the most useful! An example of a report can be viewed below:

                                MICROBIOLOGY (bearded dragon droppings)

Direct                             SCANTY COCCIDIA AND NEMATODE OVA SEEN
Cryptosporidium              Negative
Yeast                              ++

What does it mean?

 

  • It means that this lizard has coccidiosis (a gut parasite) and needs treatment.
  • It has intestinal worms and needs treatment (Nematodes).
  • It does not have cryptosporidia (A serious intestinal infection).
  • It has yeast in its intestines and needs treatment. The underlying reason for this is normally that the vivarium is not warm enough.


This lizard needed one medicine to treat the coccidian parasite, a different type of medicine to kill the worms, a third different type of medicine to treat the yeast infection and more heat to be provided. Sometimes more than one type of worm is present and two different wormers may be needed. It is very important to test faeces of all new reptiles. Shops very rarely mention this!

Charges for Diagnostic Tests

We routinely give clients estimates for any work that is to be done. We will offer all clients the ideal testing protocol which may include x-rays, blood tests, urine tests and faecal tests. We realise people have different budgets so we will also give you estimates which involves fewer tests and therefore lower costs. Because people are not used to paying for medical costs it can come as a surprise. It is not unusual for estimates to vary from £200+ with complete investigations and testing, to £45 if you decide to just wait and see how the animal responds to treatment.

 

If samples are sent to external laboratories from us you will be charged the fee that the laboratory charges in addition to a collection and interpretation fee. If you send samples direct to the laboratory and they send the results to us or ask you to do so for advice you will be charged an interpretation fee for the time it takes us to do. We only use veterinary laboratories in UK.  This is so that in the event of a dispute involving a court, the laboratory can be called to appear in court.   

Tests And Investigations.doc
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Diagnostic Testing Birds.doc
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Diagnostic Testing Reptiles.doc
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Village Vets Centre Ltd

65 Quarry St  

Liverpool

L25 6EZ


Tel.: 0151 428 8600

 

In case of emergency, please call:

Tel.: 0151 428 8600

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