How Long Should Laboratory Testing Take?
Basically I have a dog, he is a Collie cross, and
he has not been feeling too well lately. We took
him to the vet this week, and they gave him an
exam, then took some blood, and said they will get
back to us.
We get a call the following night saying he
"might" have a form of leukaemia, but they need
to send the blood back to the lab to get it
re-analized. However, today I get a call from the
vet's, and they are telling me they could test his
blood using another method, and this could give
them a better reading.
Am I wrong in thinking they should have told me
this on Monday when I brought him in? As every day
goes past he is deterioating, and its not fair for
him to suffer. So I agree to this test and they
said it'll cost more, and we wont know till next
week, as for some reason they only send out blood
to the lab, once a week, is this normal for a
vets? I don't think he will be in any kind of fit
condition to wait another week.
Any thoughts would be graciously met.
Some forms of laboratory testing, such as measuring blood sugar or checking for anemia are quite simple and can be run almost instantly in any veterinary facility.
More comprehensive testing of liver, kidney, and other organ function is available at some veterinary hospitals. Other hospitals use commercial veterinary laboratories to perform these tests.
Very advanced tests must be run at commercial laboratories. These labs generally are located in major metropolitan areas or at veterinary schools. These tests sometimes are run only on one or two days each week.
Here is what I suspect happened with your dog's samples. Because your dog's symptoms were vague, your vet drew a blood sample on Monday and sent it to the laboratory requesting a broad, general panel of tests. A pathologist at the laboratory likely noted abnormal cells in the blood, and reported to your vet on Tuesday afternoon that they might represent developing leukemia. Your vet relayed that information to you on Tuesday evening.
Your vet may have then determined that the best way to proceed would be to perform advanced testing on the blood. It is not surprising that this would cost extra. The initial fee that you paid was intended to cover the broad panel of tests. If more tests are performed, then additional expenses should be expected.
I suspect that the additional test that your vet desired is one called immunocytochemistry. This is a test that checks for certain proteins on cells. It can sometimes be used to distinguish cancer cells from non-cancerous cells. Most laboratories do not perform this test every day. Sometimes it can take a week or longer to get results.
I believe that in the near future many diseases, including most types of cancer, will be easily diagnosable through detection of special molecules in the blood, saliva or breath of animals. These tests will yield immediate results.
Sadly, until these tests are developed, pets and people will continue waiting through agonizing periods before diagnoses are made.
If you are anxious to find out what is happening with your dog so that you can start treating him (and I certainly understand why you would be), your best bet will be to take him to a large specialist facility with advanced in-house laboratories. There should be several of them in London.
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