Common Veterinary Tests for Cats and Dogs

A Simple Guide to Common Veterinary Tests for Cats and Dogs

Before you take your pet for their next checkup, make sure that you familiarize yourself with a few of the most common tests administered at the clinic.

Table of Contents

When you take your pet to the veterinarian, chances are they are going to do some type of test on them while you are there. If you haven’t gone through veterinary school, it is safe to say that you may not really know the purpose behind many of these tests, much less anything about how they are administered. Before you take your pet for their next checkup, make sure that you familiarize yourself with a few of the most common tests administered at the vet clinic.

Here you will find a comprehensive list of common procedures and tests done at the vet, along with why the test is important.

Basic Stats

When you first get to the veterinarian’s office, someone will check your pet’s vital signs. They will take their weight, look at their eyes, ears and mouth, and observe how your pet moves. They may also listen to their heartbeat and other internal organs using a stethoscope. These are all typical routine basics that every vet will do at the beginning of every visit, regardless of the reason. This is just a part of making sure that your pet stays happy and healthy.

Lab Tests

Once they get the basic stats out of the way, they may order some lab work to be done. Many of the vet clinics these days have labs on site, which makes getting results from these tests back much easier. Here are a few of the common lab tests that may be ordered:

  • Urine samples – doing a urinalysis can help to detect diseases of the urinary tract or other infections in the body. Through a process known as cystocentesis your veterinarian will be able to collect the urine from your pet’s bladder with a syringe. It is not a painful procedure, but can prove to be uncomfortable for them and they may not want to cooperate with you. Thankfully the vet techs are well versed in this, and they have a lot of tips and tricks that make the procedure easier on everyone.
  • Stool samples – just like a urinalysis helps to detect bacteria and disease, a stool sample can do the same. Often times a stool sample is necessary to look for parasites as well. This test can be done one of two ways. Some people prefer to bring a sample they collect from home, but they can also use a swab to get a small sample of the stool.
  • Blood samples – It is common for people to have blood work done when they go to the doctor, and it is just as common for pets. Analysis of the blood is important because it can help to diagnose or monitor certain diseases, infections and ailments. The blood is drawn at the veterinary office and used for various type of blood tests.

Common Blood Tests

There are a few common tests that are done with the blood, each focusing on either red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. Red blood cells are checked for cell volume, concentration of hemoglobin and total red blood cell count. White blood cells are checked for a total count as well, because when white blood cells are elevated it often means that there is something going on. Platelets can also be checked to make sure that they are at the right levels. A decrease in platelets can actually be a sign of a blood clotting disorder, injury or disease. The results of these blood tests can be a good indicator of health problems, and they really help to provide your veterinarian with information that will help them to give your pet the best care possible.

While your veterinarian’s office may have a lab to process this lab work, they may also need to rely on other testing centers for more specialized testing. Typically when it goes to an outside lab, they run a basic test panel along with any other special tests that may be ordered.

Here is a basic list of tests that are included in a typical lab panel, and what the results mean:

  1. Total Protein – an increase in total protein may be a sign of inflammation or dehydration, or it could be a sign of something more serious such as internal bleeding or heart problems.
  2. Albumin – an increase in albumin may also be a sign of dehydration, congestive heart failure, internal bleeding or liver failure.
  3. Globulin – this is just a calculation of the difference between albumin and total protein levels.
  4. Creatinine – an increase in creatinine may be a sign of a kidney or bladder problem, or possibly damage to muscles.
  5. Urea – an increase in urea may also be a sign of kidney or bladder problems, but may also be an indicator of liver failure, or an excess or deficiency in their nutrition.
  6. ALT and ALP – these are enzymes that when elevated may mean that there is a thyroid problem, or possibly damage to muscles of the liver.
  7. Glucose – an increase in glucose could be a sign of diabetes, or it may just be stress related.

Once your vet gets the panel back, they will be able to take a look at the results and see what may be going on with your pet. As you can see, many of these lab tests have several different possibilities for ailments and health problems that go along with them. That is why lab tests alone cannot be used for diagnosis. It is important that your vet do follow up tests to rule things out before giving a diagnosis and a treatment plan.

Diagnostic Imaging

Another type of tests that are commonly done at the veterinary office include diagnostic imaging. The most common type of imaging is, of course, the x-ray imaging. This is often used to help to image bones, look for foreign objects, or see within the body for problems. It can help to detect cancerous tumors, infection, and injuries such as fractures or broken bones. Ultrasonography, or the ultrasound, is another common type of diagnostic imaging. This type of imaging is most often done when they need to get a closer look at your pet’s internal organs.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of veterinary tests that your vet may perform on your pet. When you take your pet in for a routine visit, chances are they won’t be doing every test possible. (That could be pretty damaging to your pocketbook.) They will, however, do the tests that they see necessary depending on your pet’s age, health and overall well being. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, make sure that you address these concerns with your vet. They will then be able to determine what tests are going to be necessary in order to provide an accurate diagnosis.


Taking your pet to the vet doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take a look at some of the common tests and procedures performed on animals so that you can go in prepared next time!

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