What Do Those Words Mean: Diagnostic Tests and Procedures for Cats


Veterinary science has entered an exciting time. New breakthroughs are allowing our pets to live longer and healthier lives. Unfortunately, the average pet owner is often unaware of all the specialties, diagnostic tests and procedures available to their four-legged family member. Below is a list of veterinary tests that help veterinarians diagnose and treat illness and injury.

  • Abdominal radiographs are X-rays. They allow visualization of tissues and organs with the abdominal cavity or belly.
  • Abdominal ultrasound evaluates the internal organs of the abdomen using high frequency sound waves. Ultrasound and X rays often go hand-in-hand because ultrasound shows a motion picture of the organs while they are functioning, while an X-ray takes a static image. Also called: sonogram.
  • Abdominocentesis is the removal of fluid from the abdomen using a needle (to determine the type of fluid present or to relieve fluid buildup). Also called: abdominal tap.
  • Acetylcholine receptor antibody titer is a simple blood test performed specifically when a disease called myasthenia gravis is suspected. Also called: AChRAT.
  • ACTH plasma test is a blood test to determine concentrations of plasma adrenocortioctropic (ACTH) hormone concentrations. This help determine the health of the adrenal gland.
  • ACTH stimulation test is a blood test to diagnose hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease) or to diagnosis hyperadrenocoriticism (Cushing’s). Also called: ACTH
  • Activated clotting time is a test that helps to determine the ability of the blood to clot by checking the intrinsic clotting system (Factor XII, XI, IX and VIII). Also called: ACT.
  • Ammonia tolerance testing analyzes a blood sample for ammonia levels after fasting. Afterward, ammonia is administered (ammonia is normally removed from the blood by the liver, but liver disease may cause ammonia to accumulate in the blood) and blood is drawn and evaluated. Also called: ATT.
  • Antinuclear antibody test is a blood test that can indicate immune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren’s syndrome and/or rheumatoid arthritis. Also called ANA.
  • Aqueocentesis is a procedure in which a sample of fluid is collected from the anterior chamber of the eye with a small needle.
  • Arthrocentesis helps to determine abnormalities in joint fluid. The technique consists of clipping and scrubbing the skin over a joint, and inserting a small needle to withdraw fluid. Also called: joint tap.
  • Bacterial cultures are taken to determine what bacteria are present in a sample. A culture can be taken of any body fluid or secretion. Also called: culture.
  • Barium enema is a test in which dye is placed directly in the colon to visualize the entire colon on X-ray. It is sometimes recommended to reveal masses or changes within the colon. Also called: barium enema contrast radiography.
  • Bile acid studies involve analyzing a blood sample obtained after fasting and then giving the animal food. Eating causes bile to be released, but then should be removed by the liver. The test can indicate liver disease. Also called: serum bile acids or SBA.
  • Biopsy is a tissue sample removed from the animal for examination, usually to determine if a tumor is malignant or benign.
  • Blink reflex involves a gentle tap with the finger at the corners of the eye, and observing the completeness and speed of the eyelid closure.
  • Blood gas tests can help determine oxygen levels of the blood. Tests can be run on blood from an artery, though sometimes blood is taken from a vein.
  • Blood glucose levels can help diagnose diabetes mellitus or insulinoma. Also called: BG, blood sugar.
  • Blood pressure is a test done to determine the pressure of blood against the walls of blood vessels. This can tell how well the heart is pumping, the resistance to blood flow and blood volume.
  • Blood typing determines your pet’s blood type in case a blood transfusion is necessary. It involves taking a blood sample from the animal.
  • Bone marrow evaluation involves taking a sample of bone marrow, which manufactures red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. A syringe is inserted into a bone and a bit of marrow is drawn out. Also called: bone marrow aspirate.
  • Bone scan involves injecting a small amount of radioactive material that would normally accumulate in bone. This can help detect the cause of lameness or bone pain.
  • Bronchoalveolar lavage is a test in which fluid samples of the bronchus and alveolar (lung tissue) is obtained, usually through use of a bronchoscope. The fluid is sent for cytology and culture. Also called: BAL.
  • Bronchoscopy involves passing a fiberoptic tube into the mouth of a patient and snaking it to the tracheal and bronchopulmonary tree to obtain a visual examination.
  • Cerebral spinal fluid test samples the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain. It is collected using a small needle. Also called: CSF tap.
  • Chest radiographs are X-rays of the chest cavity to visualize the heart and lungs.
  • Cobalamin is a blood test used to determine intestinal absorptive function and the status of the “flora” (natural intestinal bacteria).
  • Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible scope is inserted into the colon to visualize the colon. This helps diagnose abnormalities such as chronic colitis.
  • Complete blood count is a sample of blood that is evaluated for red and white blood cells. It is used to determine anemia, abnormal platelet number and abnormal white blood cell count. Also called: hemogram, CBC.
  • Computed tomography is a specialized X-ray technique that uses ionizing energy to display a cross-sectional view of the anatomy. Also called: CAT scan or CT scan.
  • Contrast cystourogram is an X-ray taken of the bladder and urethra after a dye has been injected into the bladder to evaluate the lower urinary tract.
  • Coombs testing determines certain antigen-antibody reactions. This is performed on a blood sample and help diagnose certain immune diseases.
  • Crossmatching is a blood test used to determine the compatibility of blood with donor blood.
  • Culture and sensitivity testing is done to determine what bacteria are present in a blood sample (the culture) and which antibiotic works best to kill them (sensitivity).
  • Cystocentesis is a procedure to obtain a urine sample. A small needle is placed through the abdominal wall into the bladder. This is considered the best method to examine urine. Also called: cysto.
  • Cystogram is the x-ray obtained by cystography (X-rays of the urinary bladder using a contrast medium so the outlines of the organ can be seen clearly).
  • Cystoscopy is the examination of the bladder using a cystoscope, a tool that is inserted into the urinary tract.
  • Dacryocystohinography is a procedure in which contrast media is flushed through the entire tear duct system to enhance its visibility on X-rays.
  • Dermatophytes is a fungal culture taken to determine the presence of ringworm fungi. A small bit of hair is plucked from the edge of the lesion and placed on a special culture media. Also called: fungal culture, DTM.
  • Digoxin level is a blood test for patients on the drug digoxin to determine therapeutic blood levels.
  • Direct and indirect ophthalmoscopy provide a magnified examination of the back segment of the eye.
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