Types of Diagnostic Testing

Veterinary diagnostic tests are an exceptional tool used by our Simi Valley vets to help us pinpoint the cause, extent, or seriousness of your pet's illness or injury. Depending on your pet's condition, the type of pet diagnostic test used will vary. Below are a few of the tests that your vet may recommend to help diagnose or treat your dog or cat.

Radiography (X-Rays)

X-rays are an important diagnostic tool in animal laboratory testing. They allow veterinarians to identify issues such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowed foreign objects, and more. They can also help detect tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs, which can lead to heart disease or cancer diagnosis.

Because X-rays do not provide a detailed view of a pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments, other diagnostic imaging techniques, such as MRI and ultrasound, are more useful.

X-rays are non-invasive, painless, and considered very safe for dogs and cats. They only use very low doses of radiation, and pregnant pets are not affected. Sedation is sometimes required to obtain a clear image of the body. But sedation may not be required if the dog or cat is calm, not in too much pain, and able to lie in a comfortable position.


Ultrasounds are a type of imaging technology used to diagnose or evaluate problems with a pet's internal organs, as well as to check on their pregnancy. They are non-invasive and can be used to detect and treat medical conditions like cysts and tumors.

Ultrasounds on various parts of your pet's body necessitate different preparations. Speak with your veterinarian about how to prepare your pet for an ultrasound. For abdominal ultrasounds, you may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for 8 to 12 hours. When the urinary bladder is full of urine, we can examine it more thoroughly. This is why, if possible, your cat or dog should not urinate for 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound.

The area to be examined will most likely be shaved to produce clear images. While the majority of pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will require sedation.

PET/CT Scans

CT and PET scans require your pet to be completely still. Thus, your vet will likely administer general anesthesia. Vital signs are monitored, and the scan is quick. A specialist interprets the images, and a detailed report is sent to the veterinarian who is treating the pet.

Computed Tomography - CT Scans

CT scans produce a high-resolution image of the bony and soft tissue structures of a dog or cat, including the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs. They can also be used to evaluate the lymph nodes, thyroid gland, abdominal organs, skull/brain, and vascular structures.

Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans

This is a CT scan combined with the administration of a contrast agent intravenously (IV) to your pet. This allows veterinarians to see increased areas of blood flow in the animal's body. PET scans help detect cancer and areas of inflammation.


Blood tests can detect the earliest signs of illness before any visible symptoms appear. They can aid in the detection, identification, diagnosis, and treatment of disease or illness. Blood tests are also required for healthy pets during routine exams to obtain normal baseline values. Diagnostic blood tests are critical in assisting your veterinarian in determining the cause of your dog's symptoms.

A complete blood count (CBC) and a complete blood chemistry panel, which includes electrolytes and urinalysis, are two common tests used to diagnose anemia, inflammation, infection, immune system response, and blood clotting ability. The chemistry panel and electrolytes tell your veterinarian whether your pet's liver, kidneys, and pancreas are healthy and functioning properly. Blood tests can also detect and identify complex issues within the internal systems of a dog, such as hormonal-chemical responses.


A urinalysis is a straightforward diagnostic test used to determine the physical and chemical properties of urine. It is primarily used to assess kidney and urinary system health, but it can also reveal problems with other organ systems. All pets eight years of age and older should have a urinalysis once a year. If your pet has increased water intake, increased frequency of urination, or visible blood in the urine, a urinalysis may be recommended.

Fecal Exams

Fecal exams are performed in a veterinarian's office and are used to diagnose and treat a variety of infections that may be threatening your pet's health. Because intestinal parasites can be transmitted to humans, having your pet examined annually protects your family.

Fecal exams allow veterinarians to detect intestinal parasites like hookworms and roundworms. These can cause discomfort and irritability in pets and lead to more serious conditions. Because parasites can go undetected and infect other pets or people in the home, examining feces are the best way to detect them.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging - MRI

MRI has been widely used to help diagnose human health issues since the early 1980s, but veterinary MRIs have only recently become more widely used.

MRI scans can provide high-resolution images of soft tissues like the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons, and abdominal organs to detect injuries and diseases. They are more detailed than other diagnostic imaging tools such as x-rays or CT scans.

If your dog or cat is limping, lame, having seizures, experiencing joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, an MRI may be recommended to help diagnose the cause of your pet's symptoms.

Dog and cat MRIs take between 45 minutes and an hour to perform. To ensure success, a general anesthetic is administered before the scan. Vets recommend blood tests and x-rays be done before the MRI to ensure the pet is strong enough to be put under general anesthetic.

Are you curious about diagnostic imaging for pets? Does your dog or cat have an upcoming test? Contact our Simi Valley veterinarians today for more information or to book an appointment.