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LABORATORY TESTING - WHY, WHEN & BY WHOM

GENERAL INFORMATION

Laboratory testing is an important aspect of monitoring and ensuring the best possible health care for your pet and your family. Whether for routine wellness evaluations, during times of illness, preoperative, or during procedures, laboratory testing of blood, urine, feces, tissues, or other body fluids are among the most important and pervasive aspects of modern medicine. Laboratory tests provide us with the information for decisions from diagnosis through therapy and prognosis. For some conditions, there is just no substitute for a laboratory test. While this testing is primarily used to develop a health care plan for your pet, it is equally important to screen for diseases that may be contagious to members of your family or other people. Our goal is healthy pets and healthy families.

To better help you understand your pet's health, many of the commonly performed laboratory tests are explained at WHAT DO THOSE LAB TESTS MEAN? http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/cliented/lab.aspx, a website developed by the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

WHEN IS TESTING RECOMMENDED

Laboratory testing begins when your pet is only weeks to months old. For example, all kittens should also be tested for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Also fecal evaluation for parasites and infectious agents is recommended for all puppies and kittens. New testing standards recommend reference laboratory fecal evaluation by centrifugation performed by highly trained and competent laboratory technicians. (Studies evaluating older "in hospital" fecal flotation techniques showed the "in hospital" methods often missed finding parasites in samples that were actually positive.) Because common intestinal parasites can be passed to you and your family, the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends fecal screening every year through your pet's entire life.

In addition, laboratory tests are an irreplaceable component of your pet's health care throughout the various life stages of your pet. From growth to the prime years, through maturity and advancing to the senior and geriatric years, laboratory testing is used for yearly parasite screening and treatment, early detection of disease before it becomes serious, preoperative analysis, and for monitoring and guiding therapies. More recently, genetic tests have appeared on the market, evaluating genetic information that may predispose pets to certain conditions or diseases. With twice yearly examinations and current testing technology, your pet can be protected like never before. Teaming with you, we will make recommendations for the optimum health care for your pet through its different life stages.

And finally, testing is critical whenever your pet is feeling ill. Laboratory testing is necessary to diagnose medical conditions, plan or evaluate treatments, and monitor diseases. As the amount of medical knowledge accumulation is exploding and changing, novel testing and new treatments are being developed. The latest information also is used to determine the best diagnostic testing to support the best health outcomes for your pet.

LABORATORY TESTING RELIABILITY AND OVERSIGHT

Since we rely on the laboratories for help in diagnosing any number of conditions and for managing their treatment; both you and your pet's health care team need to trust the results that are produced. We only run a limited number of very specific laboratory tests in our hospital. Our hospital personnel are trained to perform these tests and the necessary quality control so the results are reliable. It is more efficient for us and more economical for you, our clients, to have most tests submitted to accredited and certified outside laboratories.

Laboratory accreditation and certification is regulated by the federal and state governments and the laboratory professional community. To make sure that laboratories are following the requirements to qualify for their accreditation, laboratories must undergo regular inspections. Several particularly important areas for inspection are leadership, personnel training and competency requirements, proficiency testing, performance improvement, and quality control requirements.

Veterinary hospital laboratories, just like physician office laboratories, are exempt from the more stringent standards that apply to the larger accredited and certified outside laboratories. There are no education or training requirements for the personnel in these laboratories. Unfortunately, many veterinary hospitals provide a large number of "in house" tests that is performed by inadequately trained personnel and without the necessary quality controls to guarantee reliable results. Therefore, we often need to repeat testing that was performed at another hospital since the qualifications of those staffing the laboratory and the quality assurance programs to guarantee accurate results are unknown.

For additional information, click MEDICAL DEFINITIONS & LABORATORY INFORMATION.

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