Why is my vet recommending this diagnostic test for my cat?

Published on
Last updated on
10 min read
Why is my vet recommending this diagnostic test for my cat? - a cat lying on a medical table while a vet pets them

Medical testing can be confusing for pet owners, especially when they have a seemingly perfectly healthy cat. Understanding what these tests are and how to interpret the results will equip you to be a champion of your cat’s health through all stages of life. Read on to learn:

  • What is medical testing?
  • What tests are involved in wellness panels?
  • How is diagnostic testing different from wellness panels?
  • Why does my cat need a blood test?
  • Why is diagnostic and wellness testing important for my cat?

Wellness testing helps detect conditions early, which often improves outcomes, makes management of chronic illnesses easier, and promotes treatment effectiveness. When a cat is unwell or hurt, diagnostic testing helps pinpoint a diagnosis so your veterinarian can properly treat your furry companion. Testing is an essential and useful tool used by veterinarians to keep your cat healthy through all life stages to provide the best quality of life they can.

Why is medical testing for cats needed?

Medical testing is needed for healthy cats as well as those showing signs of illness or injury. Test results are used for informational purposes to diagnose and treat conditions. Generally, medical testing can be divided into two categories: wellness and diagnostic. Wellness tests are performed on healthy cats to establish baseline values and see if anything is starting to drift outside of normal range. Keeping up with regular testing increases the chances of catching health issues and diseases early. Diagnostic tests are performed to assist in making a diagnosis when a cat is ill or injured. Both types of testing are important for the health and wellness of your cat. Testing gives veterinarians the information they need to properly care for your family member. There are even home testing kits available to aid in managing your cat’s health.

Why should I have wellness testing done for my cat?

While regular testing at your vet clinic may seem like an expensive hassle, wellness testing is an essential part of preventive care. Routine exams help to catch medical issues early, allowing for proper treatment before they can get worse. Your vet’s testing recommendations may change from one appointment to the next depending on your cat’s age, lifestyle, and geographic region. The protocols for running specific tests as well as the frequency of wellness exams fluctuate depending on your cat’s life stage and health status.

Wellness testing for kittens

For cats less than a year old, physical exams are recommended on a frequent basis in order to monitor how the kitten is growing and maturing. These exams do not always include testing. It is highly recommended that kittens receive retroviral testing. Retroviral tests tell veterinarians and cat owners if their kittens have the dangerous diseases feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

In addition, kittens require more fecal exams than adult cats due to the high likelihood of intestinal parasites. Routine blood work, urinalysis, and imaging is not usually needed for kittens unless there are signs of disease or injury. Finally, some cat owners may opt for genetic testing, though this is not as common in cats as it is in dogs.

Wellness testing for adult cats

For cats between the ages of one and ten years, annual wellness exams are recommended, as well as routine wellness tests and vaccinations. Annual fecal testing is recommended for all cats as intestinal parasites often do not create symptoms. Many feline wellness panels include routine urinalysis and blood work including a complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry panel. Getting a baseline for these tests to establish your cat’s normal can be helpful in catching when levels drift out of normal range, which triggers your vet to keep an eye out for specific diagnostic markers in the future. Retroviral testing can also be conducted annually based on a cat’s history, lifestyle, and overall risk.

Wellness testing for senior cats

Cats over ten years of age require more frequent senior wellness exams due to a higher likelihood of developing health conditions, such as kidney disease that can be caught early. A complete blood count, blood chemistry, urinalysis, fecal test, and blood pressure are recommended every six to twelve months based on age and medical history. Repeated retroviral testing can also be conducted based on the cat’s history, lifestyle, and overall risk of exposure.

What is diagnostic testing?

Diagnostic testing is conducted when a cat is ill or injured to assist in making an accurate diagnosis. Test recommendations will vary based on the cat’s symptoms, medical history, and what is noted during a physical exam. Diagnostic tests can include the same medical tests conducted in wellness panels or involve more specialized tests for detailed diagnostics. Many diagnoses cannot be confirmed without a diagnostic test.

What diagnostic tests will my cat need if they show signs of illness?

Depending on your cat’s symptoms, age, and medical history, there are a variety of tests that may be recommended by your vet. They may include:

  • CBC, blood chemistry, or other specific blood tests for feline diseases
  • Urinalysis
  • Imaging such as X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, and CT scans

Blood tests check overall blood cell levels, internal organ function, and how bodily systems are functioning. Urine tests check for UTIs, kidney health, and toxin exposure. Imaging is used to visualize many internal abnormalities such as tumors, bone fractures, and intestinal blockages.

When does a cat need blood tests?

Blood tests tell a veterinarian a lot about your cat’s health and are utilized in a variety of ways. Blood tests are recommended when:

  • Cats are healthy as part of wellness checks
  • Cats are sick to assist in an accurate diagnosis
  • A cat will undergo a procedure involving anesthesia
  • A cat has a chronic condition
  • Required by law for public health concerns

Baseline blood work is recommended to help catch illnesses and medical conditions early. Blood testing is also used when a cat is hurt or unwell to make a diagnosis and decide the best course of treatment. Chronic conditions such as kidney disease and heart disease are monitored with routine blood work. Blood tests are also used to check a cat’s health before using anesthesia by checking white blood cell count and blood clotting ability. They also help in deciding the best anesthetic drugs to use for your individual cat. Finally, if a dangerous condition that could potentially be passed to humans is suspected, some laws require diagnostic testing to ensure public health and safety.

Why is diagnostic testing important for cats?

Diagnostic and wellness testing are important for a cat’s overall health and quality of life. Wellness testing helps catch diseases and conditions early, screen for endemic infectious diseases, minimize risks associated with anesthesia, and identify genetic conditions. Meanwhile, diagnostic testing helps point to a diagnosis so an effective and targeted treatment plan can be developed. Without diagnostic testing, veterinarians are simply guessing when a cat is sick, and may end up wasting time and money with ineffective treatments. Diagnostic testing also helps rule out zoonotic diseases that put others at risk, sometimes required by law for everyone’s safety.

Overall, testing is one of the most useful tools in veterinary care to keep cats as happy and healthy as possible. Diagnostic tests can be confusing but pet owners can learn how to read the diagnostic reports. If you have questions about wellness or diagnostic testing for your cat, or need help reading a report, you can talk to an online vet who will gladly answer your questions.

FAQ - Why is my vet recommending this test for my cat?

What is a cat diagnostic test?

Diagnostic and wellness testing in cats are various tests, including blood work, imaging, and urinalysis, to catch and diagnose medical conditions. Medical testing in cats is used in healthy cats as well as ill or injured cats.

What are the advantages of diagnostic tests in cats?

Diagnostic testing in and of itself is not a treatment. However, testing assists veterinarians in making the right diagnosis and giving the proper treatment. Many conditions cannot be accurately diagnosed without diagnostic testing. Without it, vets are simply guessing which can result in a misdiagnosis as well as wasted time and money on ineffective treatments designed for conditions unrelated to your cat’s individual case.

What are routine tests for cats?

Routine testing is recommended during wellness exams to help catch medical conditions early. They include CBC and blood chemistry blood tests, retroviral blood testing, urinalysis, and fecal tests.