Understanding What a Clinical Diagnostics Laboratory Does

Food safety testing analysis

Veterinarians can often work very closely with a clinical diagnostics laboratory in order to provide the most accurate information to pet owners, trainers, farmers, or others who work closely with animals and are concerned about their well-being. For example, if a horse has an equine infectious anemia virus or cows have dropped dead suddenly or your pet has heartworm, a vet may send off samples to a clinical diagnostics laboratory to find out what’s going on. These labs can provide not just lab results for a variety of tests, but also phone consultations, priority overnight shipping, and in some cases, can send couriers to come pick up the samples. A clinical diagnostics laboratory can play an important role in not just keeping our pets healthy, but also in food safety testing, with multiple divisions that focus on different areas, like microbiology, parasitology, pathology, and more.

Equine Infectious Anemia Virus Case Study

One example of how a clinical diagnostics laboratory can be of immense service is their work with EIAV (equine infectious anemia virus). The lab can do an equine infectious anemia virus antibody test, which lets the owner or owners know if urgent steps towards treatment and quarantine need to be taken. Just one fifth of a teaspoon of blood from a chronic case of EIAV during fever can have enough virus to infect 10,000 horses. Horses who have EIAV can die within two to three weeks of being exposed and show severe, acute signs of the disease.

Interestingly, most horses are carriers without realizing it, lacking any symptoms or abnormalities that tip humans off to being carriers. Their EIAV concentrations are significantly lower than horses who are obviously affected.

A lab can offer same day results and competitively priced tests for vets to administer, as well as do necropsy testings (and/or cremation, if needed) to find out the cause of death. A veterinarian’s office usually does not have the technology or resources to do this kind of work, but with the help of a lab, can provide answers to worried owners.

What Can a Clinical Diagnostics Lab Do For Pet Owners?

For owners with house pets, like cats or dogs, they probably won’t need some of the epidemiology tests or foot safety tests that a lab can run for livestock farmers. However, vets may commonly send heartworm tests or samples off to a diagnostics lab to get results. Around one million dogs have heartworm in the United States every year and treatment can be up to $1,000 in total costs. If results come back positive, the animal will need to start a treatment regimen — and vets will suggest investing in a monthly preventive to keep it from happening again.

Given that just one or two worms can make a cat very sick and that dogs with heartworm can have up to 30 or more worms in their hearts and lungs, getting treated is crucially important once the tests come back. It’s also recommended that pet owners conduct a heartworm test six months after treatment and then annually to make sure that the heartworms have gone away for good.

What Other Services Do These Labs Offer?

A clinical diagnostics lab can also help educate veterinarians in aspects of clinical pathology — both those studying to be a vet and current vets. This knowledge can be incredibly useful to them down the line and many labs offer residencies, seminars, rotations, internships, and in some cases, even resources online to further increase learning.

Labs also carry out investigative research in clinical pathology, advances in diagnostic medicine, microbiology, immunology, parasitology, and serotology, among other things. They can often be major and important contributors to scientific efforts and advancements when it comes to veterinary medicine and beyond.

If you’re worried about an outbreak among your livestock or horses or are anxiously waiting for test results for your cat or dog, know that technicians and specialists at clinical diagnostics laboratories are working to discover what might be wrong. With their findings, vets can help put together a treatment plan and course of action to get your animals back on their feet.