Your vet as a television star
Iused to love watching the television programme CSI, with its cool ‘‘Who Are You?’’ theme tune, the whodunnit cases and the impressive diagnostic testing in the lab.
Veterinary medicine is like CSI, question isn’t ‘‘ Who did it?’’ but wrong with this pet?’’
This question forms a huge amount of a veterinarian’s workload. Finding the answer can be like a whodunnit, with either no suspects or too many.
The answer is the identification of the nature and cause of a problem. We call this the diagnosis.
Without a diagnosis, the prognosis, or the probable outlook, and subsequent treatment or solution are much more difficult.
As veterinarians, our patients can’t tell us a lot.
They can’t say what they may have eaten, where they may have been, where it hurts, or even if it hurts at all.
That means making the diagnosis involves a lot more detective work and is why veterinary medicine is quite similar to CSI.
Like the team on CSI, we often use diagnostic tools and tests to help us uncover the cause of a problem. Not always within the hour, as on TV, but often surprisingly quickly.
Diagnostic testing, whether it is blood tests, urine tests, X- rays, ultrasound, bacterial cultures or CT scans, can often cost more than the actual treatment for the problem. But they are critical. For example, my cat, Harry, who only the ‘‘What’s is 15, has only one eye and has been diabetic for a year, recently started to lose some weight.
I did routine blood and urine tests, as well as special blood tests that went to an animal health lab, an ultrasound, and finally surgical biopsies of his intestines and lymph nodes to try to find out what the problem was.
The initial list of causes was long, including cancer.
But by doing the diagnostic tests I have learned he has a type of inflammatory bowel disease that fortunately can be treated.
The diagnostic work cost more than $1000, but the treatment will only be about $200. Money well spent as far as I am concerned.
I often tell my clients that veterinary medicine is like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together.
The initial bits of information from the owner are the first pieces, often forming the framework.
The physical examination by the vet helps sort out a lot more of the main picture.
However, there can sometimes still be a lot of blue sky and that is where the diagnostic testing is so important. The tests help fill in the gaps so the actual picture can be recognised.
Even if we don’t have every piece of the puzzle, the more we have, the more likely we can literally see what the overall picture is.
Some diagnostic tests are very simple and quick, such as a skin scraping. Some are much more complicated, such as CT or MRI.
The choice of which tests are going to be the best value in helping complete the picture is where your veterinarian’s skill comes in.
Together with your veterinarian, you can decide the diagnostic plan for your pet, as I did with my cat Harry, to try to give them the best treatment.
Dr Ian Schraa, an experienced veterinarian, owns Rappaw Veterinary Care.
Special patient: Harry, the one-eyed cat.