Which test is really necessary? – A very simple answer from a vet in Markham …

What veterinary tests are really necessary for my pet? What procedures need to be done? And what tests are just a waste of money?

These are wonderful questions. Veterinarians in Markham, Toronto, and elsewhere face them often in the exam room.  We discuss them behind the scenes in our animal hospital on Hwy 7, the veterinary community is struggling with this question, and the chat rooms on the web are full of opinions.

 The answer is so simple:

The ONE test that gives you an accurate diagnosis at the perfect time is the right one. Can it be that simple? Of course not. Veterinarians in Markham, Stouffville, Richmond Hill and elsewhere agree: There is rarely one single test that gives an accurate diagnosis i.e. the x-ray that shows you the swallowed fishing hook in a cat’s neck or the golf ball in the dog’s stomach.

Veterinarians are trained to choose tests to narrow down the list of differential diagnoses:

At our veterinary clinic in Markham we screen to eliminate some diseases and identify what is causing an illness. Sometimes clients feel that a negative test result (medical speech for “no abnormals found”) is a waste of money, or in chatroom speech, the vet does a lot of tests because he is “out for the money”.

In our animal hospital we try to strike the often fine balance between likelyhood of a positive answer, severity and urgency of a missed diagnosis, affordability of the test, risk and comfort for the patient, and if the diagnosis changes anything in the treatment. (side note: watch Dr. Marsig explain this on Animal Hospital of Unionville Youtube Channel

Let me give you an example: In the area of Markham, Stouffville, Richmond Hill, Aurora, Uxbridge, Newmarket, Scarborough, and North York, about one in 700 dogs has heartworm disease.

Untreated, this is almost always a deadly disease. For the 699 dogs testing negative the test could be considered a waste of money – or an investment in peace of mind. But for the one positive dog, it makes a world of difference. Because the test is cheap (about $40) and it does not put the animal through any pain and suffering, it is surely a good investment. Compare this with the Parasite Council for Companion Animal Recommendations: www.capcvet.org.

Or let’s take stool testing for parasites: About 14% of pets have parasites, whether they are indoors or going outside. Parasites are not only in the city of Markham, they are everywhere. Unless the pet passes a worm, nobody can see the parasites without a stool test. There are two major test methods available: Flotation and ELISA for a parasite called Giardia. Since we at the Animal Hospital of Unionville test regularly for Giardia, we find that about half of all pets with parasites have Giardia, which can infect the human family as well. Is this test necessary? We absolutely think so.

All dog breeds and all age groups have different predispositions. Markham veterinarians are acutely aware of this.

Sometimes breeding organizations are very transparent and publicly recommend what should be tested regularly. For instance check out the Wheaten Terriers: http://www.wheatenhealthinitiative.com/Pages/healthtestprotadult.html

We formulate our recommendations based on all these factors, but each individual patient is different. Only you can determine with us what is really necessary.

Dr. Marsig and the veterinary staff from the Animal Hospital of Unionville

Compassionate Advanced Health Care for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.

For more information about parasites go to http://unionvet.ca/resources/client-education/ and search for Parasites, Heartworm, Giardia etc.

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