Illustrated Articles

Cats + Diagnosis

  • Cytology is the microscopic examination of cells that have been collected from the body. There are different methods for collecting cells from body surfaces including skin scrapings, impression smears, swabs, and flushes. Once the cells are collected, they are examined under a microscope. Sometimes examination of surface cells does not provide a definitive diagnosis and additional samples must be collected.

  • Dexamethasone is used to test the feedback loop that controls the level of cortisol hormone in the body. Injection of dexamethasone will cause a decreased level of cortisol in a normal pet; however, in a pet with Cushing’s disease, the negative feedback loop will not respond completely, or at all, resulting in minimal or no decrease in cortisol level. A pet with pituitary induced Cushing’s may have a slight reduction in cortisol as compared to adrenal-induced Cushing’s which will have no cortisol suppression. Standard testing for Cushing’s disease uses a low dose of dexamethasone and often diagnoses adrenal vs pituitary disease. Rarely, a high dose will be used if clarification on type of Cushing’s disease is required. Other diseases can suppress cortisol production, so it is important to rule these out prior to dexamethasone testing. Knowing the type of Cushing’s disease your pet has can guide treatment decisions and offers a more defined prognosis.

  • Testing for diabetes includes confirming hyperglycemia and glucosuria while looking for other conditions by checking a CBC (anemia, infection), biochemistry profile (hepatic disease, pancreatitis) and a urinalysis (urinary tract infection). Monitoring includes regular glucose curves and additional exams and testing based on the pet owner’s monitoring of their cat’s clinical signs in the home setting. Urine glucose testing and fructosamine are sometimes used in diabetic monitoring and urine testing for infection may be recommended.

  • DNA is a large complex molecule that carries the genetic information or genetic code of an organism. All common forms of life, such as viruses, bacteria, plants, and animals carry a copy of their own genetic code in each of their cells. Each organism has a unique section of DNA that is just like a fingerprint. DNA-PCR is often used to detect the presence of infectious organisms; especially when detecting extremely small numbers of infectious organisms and for detecting certain viruses and bacteria that are difficult to diagnose by other methods.

  • Microalbuminuria refers to the presence of very small amounts of albumin in urine. It may indicate underlying health problems and is sometimes an early warning sign of primary kidney disease. Many conditions can potentially lead to microalbuminuria (e.g., dental disease, chronic skin disease, feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, hypertension, and cancer). A simple test, early renal damage test (ERD), may be used to detect microlbuminuria. A small amount of urine collected in a sterile container to run this test. Microalbuminuria does not mean that your pet has serious kidney disease, and your veterinarian will recommend further testing to look for hidden disease if microalbuminuria is detected.

  • An electrocardiogram, or ECG, is a test that is used to assess the heart. More specifically, an ECG measures the transmission of an electrical impulse through the heart. This test is not painful and is typically performed as an outpatient procedure. Analyzing the electrical impulses produced as the heart beats can help identify a number of different abnormalities within the heart.

  • A fecal Baermann is a special fecal test used to diagnose infection by parasites that pass larvae in stool instead of eggs. A small golf-ball sized sample of fresh stool is mixed with warm water to encourage larvae to separate from the fecal material to allow identification. The most common parasite diagnosed with a fecal Baermann is lungworm, which typically causes signs of coughing.

  • A fecal flotation is a screening test for internal parasites. It is performed by mixing a small sample of stool with a special solution that causes any parasite eggs to float to the surface of the solution. These are transferred to a glass slide an examined under a microscope. Young pets need multiple fecal flotations to screen for infection, while adults may only need a fecal screening once yearly unless they are at higher risk of infection. The test may have false negatives if the parasites are not yet producing eggs, if there are too few eggs produced, if the eggs are produced sporadically, or if the parasite species are not amenable to diagnosis by fecal flotation.

  • A fecal occult blood test screens for the presence of hemoglobin (a component of red blood cells) in a fecal sample. Many conditions can cause blood to appear in the stool including intestinal ulceration, neoplasia, dental disease, and parasites. More testing is needed if the fecal occult blood test is positive. False negatives can occur from intermittent bleeding. False positives can also occur from what the pet has eaten in the last 3 days, such as raw/undercooked meat, raw vegetables, and some canned foods. Your veterinarian may suggest repeat tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

  • FIP is a disease caused by a mutated (changed) strain of feline coronavirus. Unfortunately, routine blood testing for feline coronavirus is not clinically useful. Exposure to any strain of feline coronavirus will result in an immune response and the production of antibodies. A working diagnosis of FIP is typically made on the basis of the cat's clinical history, as well as supportive laboratory data. Histopathology remains the best way to diagnose FIP in the living cat.