Veterinary Diagnosis and Treatment

When a pet gets sick, the veterinarian will examine the pet, possibly ordering tests, x-rays, or ultrasounds all to find the cause of the sickness. Diagnosis is the process of determining which disease or condition is causing the animal’s symptoms. Once the condition is diagnosed (identified), then the vet can develop an appropriate treatment plan. Some common diagnostic tools and procedures, as well as treatments, are discussed below.

Veterinarians perform health checks for pets that are similar to human examinations. The vet may check vital signs, record weight, check eyes and ears, examine the gums, check the pet’s movement, and listen to its heart, breathing, and digestive sounds. If the vet suspects specific problems, they may perform specialized tests. Some simple lab tests may be done at the clinic. Stool samples can be tested for the presence of parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms. Urine samples can analyzed for evidence of infections, urinary tract diseases, or kidney problems. Blood tests reveal a number of conditions and infections. The veterinarian may send samples to an outside laboratory if test results are inconclusive or if advanced testing must be done.

Vets also perform imaging procedures to diagnose animals. X-rays are commonly used to identify fractures, tumors, and injuries. The procedure is painless, but pets may be sedated to calm them and encourage them to remain still. Ultrasounds are another common diagnostic tool. They are great for viewing soft tissues such as the heart and abdominal organs. A radiologist assists the veterinarian in interpreting the results.

Once the problem is identified and your pet receives a diagnosis, the veterinarian can develop a treatment plan. The specific treatment will depend heavily upon the diagnosis, as well as your pet’s individual circumstances. For example, an infection may be treated with antibiotic prescriptions and a follow-up visit. Treatment of a chronic condition such as diabetes or allergies may require visits to a specialist. Other conditions may require surgery. The veterinarian will work with you to determine a cost-effective, desirable treatment plan.

In some cases, a pet’s problem can be tricky to diagnosis. Others receive an initial diagnosis, but they don’t get well after treatment. In these cases, a veterinarian may refer your pet to a specialist. Veterinary internists specialize in the body’s internal organs, and they can diagnose many chronic as well as infectious diseases. Specialists such as dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and dentists can diagnose conditions related to the skin, eyes, and mouth, respectively. In each case, you can expect the specialist to work closely with your family veterinarian to develop a treatment plan for your pet.