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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Introduction to Diagnostic Tests and Imaging

By Morag G. Kerr, BVMS, BSc, PhD, Cbiol, FIBiol, MRCVS,
Jimmy C. Lattimer, DVM, MS, DACVR, DACVRO, Associate Professor (Radiology and Radiation Oncology), Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, University of Missouri
John B. Malone, DVM, PhD, Professor, Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California
Karen W. Post, DVM, MS, DACVM, Director of Laboratories, Veterinary Bacteriologist, North Carolina Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System, Consumer Services, Rollins Animal Disease, Diagnostic Laboratory
Susan J. Tornquist, DVM, PhD, DACVP, Professor and Associate Dean for Student and Academic Affairs, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University
Trevor J. Whitbread, BSc, BVSc, MRCVS, DECVP, Pathologist, Abbey Veterinary Services

When you have a health problem, your doctor will order blood tests, x-rays, or other tests to help pinpoint the cause of the problem. When your pet has a health problem, your veterinarian will often order similar tests to determine the cause and seriousness of your pet’s condition. Depending on the tests needed and the facilities available at your veterinarian’s clinic, the tests may be performed in-house at the clinic or at a specialized laboratory or test facility in another location.

If the tests are to be carried out by the veterinarian or a technician within their clinic, then the staff has access to the medical history leading up to the problem. If the tests are to be performed elsewhere, it is important that a detailed history of the problem be included with the samples or be available when the pet arrives. The staff at the external laboratory will need this information to correctly perform the tests and interpret the results. Usually, the referring veterinary clinic will provide this information to the external laboratory. However, if you are asked to bring the information to the clinic with your pet, it is very important that you do so to help the laboratory do their work correctly.