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Types of Diagnostic Testing for Pets

There are a number of reasons why your vet may recommend veterinary testing for your pup. It doesn't necessarily mean they are sick. Here, our Orange Park vets share some of the different types of pet laboratory diagnostic tests that they may ask for and what this lab work shows us about your pet.

Why do pets need lab work?

There are many different types of lab tests, and we typically use them to try to figure out what is wrong with your pet. It does not have to be related to illness, but lab work is typically performed to identify the source of an illness or to determine whether an illness exists at all, as in the case of intestinal worms or heartworm disease. Even if it isn't always obvious, we run veterinary laboratory tests to see if those things are present in that specific patient.

What are the different types of lab work?

Despite the fact that there are numerous distinct tests that fall into this category, the general term "lab work" is frequently used. What are the various tests that fall under veterinary laboratory diagnostics?

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

Heartworm Tests

Heartworm disease is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. These mosquitos carry a parasitic worm known as Dirofilaria immitis.

Pets such as cats, pets, and ferrets can become the hosts of these parasites, this means that the worms live inside your pet, mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected animals. 

Unfortunately, the signs of heartworm disease don't usually begin to appear in pets until the disease becomes more advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. 

Your vet is able to conduct blood tests using the veterinary laboratory to look for heartworm proteins (antigens), that are released into the pet's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until approximately five months (at the earliest) after a cat or pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito.

It is critical to understand that heartworm disease treatment can have serious side effects and can even be toxic to your pet's body. Furthermore, the treatment is costly because it necessitates numerous vet visits, hospital stays, X-rays, blood tests, and injections. According to our Orange Park veterinarians, the best way to treat heartworm disease is to avoid it in the first place.

Although, if your cat or pet is diagnosed with heartworms, 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 pet's back muscles.

Fecal Testing

Fecal exams, which are microscopic examinations of your pet's feces, are performed in the veterinary diagnostics lab at your primary care veterinarian's office. These yearly exams help your veterinarian detect and treat any infections that could endanger the health of your pet or even everyone in your household.

When conducting a fecal exam your veterinarian will check for any signs of parasites such as hookworms and roundworms. These parasites could make your pet uncomfortable and irritable, as well as lead to many more serious conditions. A handful of parasites can even be transmitted to humans.

Intestinal parasites typically hide in the gastrointestinal tract of your pet. This makes fecal exams the most reliable way of diagnosing these parasites.

You should bring your pet to our Orange Park vet lab to be tested for internal parasites at least once a year. Puppies and animals that have gastrointestinal problems might need to have fecal exams more frequently. Ask your vet how often you should bring your pet's stool sample in for a fecal exam. 


At our pet lab, a urinalysis is a quick diagnostic procedure used to ascertain the physical and chemical characteristics of urine. However, it can also highlight issues with other organ systems. It is primarily used to evaluate the health of the kidneys and urinary system. Every year, senior pets should have urinalysis tests if they are eight years old or older. If your pet drinks more water than usual, urinates more frequently, or has clear urine, a urinalysis may also be advised.

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).

Cells & Solid Material (Urine Sediment)

Some of the cells that might be found in your pet's urine can include:

    • Red Blood Cells
    • White Blood Cells
    • Protein
    • Sugar
    • Ketones
    • Bilirubin
    • Urobilinogen
    • Blood
    • Crystals
    • Bacteria
    • Tissue Cells

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 crucial laboratory work in veterinary medicine can also spot complex issues with a pet's internal systems and help with their identification. For instance, blood tests for pets can determine whether internal or external stimuli are causing hormonal-chemical reactions. This notifies a veterinarian of the potential for an endocrine system issue with the animal.

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 a specific type 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 are able to gain important information about blood clotting from this test. High levels can indicate a pet is 30 to 40 days pregnant.
What Blood Chemistries Reveal (Blood Serum Test):

Blood chemistries (blood serum tests) give us insight into a pet’s organ function (liver, kidneys, and pancreas), hormone levels, electrolyte status, and more.

The test can be used to assess the health of older pets, do general health assessments before anesthesia, or monitor pets receiving long-term medications.

These tests also help us evaluate senior pets’ health and those with symptoms of diseases (such as Addison’s, diabetes, kidney diseases, or others), diarrhea, vomiting, or toxin exposure.

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.

If your vet has ordered a series of dermatological laboratory tests and you would like to learn more about their purpose, please contact our Orange Park vets to schedule a veterinary visit and diagnostic imaging.

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