By Dr. Gary A. Borgman
It is often said at veterinary meetings that veterinarians have three roles:
If only it were that simple! Today I will focus on the first priority of diagnosing. A long time ago, Will Rogers quipped “The best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter-he’s got to just know”. If only it were that simple! While Mr. Rogers endeared himself to veterinarians everywhere with this opinion, the reality of the situation is that we are constantly challenged to correctly diagnose our patients. While it would be very helpful to be able to ask our patients about their symptoms and how they are feeling, we are able to get a wealth of information from their humans and from careful observation of how a patient presents in the exam room. The information we get from a pet’s owner is the first step and this is largely the art of practice. The art of listening to understand is critical to this process. A careful and thorough physical examination of the patient is the next step as a veterinarian prepares the initial assessment of what is going on.
n Will Rogers’ day, there were very few diagnostic procedures to assist and help assure a correct diagnosis. This of course was true in human medicine as well but we now have a plethora of diagnostic tests and procedures which are indispensable to reach an accurate assessment and diagnosis of our animal patients. So the diagnostic process is far from simple and can take some time. Many tests and procedures can be performed in our hospital with same day or even same hour results. A moderately ill animal can usually be diagnosed in-house utilizing x-rays, ultrasound, skin and ear cytology, urinalysis, complete blood count, blood chemistries, electrocardiograms, blood pressure measurement, intestinal parasite screening, heartworm tests, feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus tests. Even though we can perform blood tests and screenings in-house, it is often desirable to submit blood tests to a reference laboratory for more thorough analysis, however when a critical patient presents and time is of the essence, it is essential to get as much information as possible as soon as possible.
The diagnostic tests I have described are science at its best in veterinary medicine. The interpretation of the findings is more the art of diagnosing. At a recent meeting of the Central Florida Veterinary Medical Association, we were brought up to speed on understanding the various types and possible causes of anemia in our pets. Dr. Allemen from the University of Florida skillfully related the details of a Dachshund who was infected with a rare anemia causing parasite from a Pit Bull living in the same household. This patient was successfully treated but the case underscored the importance of getting the diagnosis right, so that the proper treatment could be prescribed.
The veterinarians of Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (Tel 407-518-0880) are available to answer any questions on diagnostic testing or any other pet health issues. We are here to help and to serve.