New Lab Equipment takes the Guesswork out of Patient Care

New Lab Equipment takes the Guesswork out of Patient Care

By Dr. Ed Mapes
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
McKinney, Tx

Whenever a pet is brought to the hospital with complaints such as vomiting, diarrhea and perhaps lethargy, we have to make a decision on whether we’re dealing with a mild gastroenteritis or a more serious illness that would need more immediate attention. Sometimes this comes down to guess work because it can be difficult to tell the true nature of an illness, especially early in its course.
A new in-house lab instrument we now have (the Abaxis i-STAT) can take the guesswork out of these decisions; allowing us to do quick blood tests that yield information on the animal’s acid-base status. When considering just how significant a patient’s symptoms really are, a few drops of blood and a few minutes are all we need to gain valuable information.

Figure 1:  The i-STAT instrument

Figure 1: The i-STAT instrument

The i-STAT instrument in Figure 1 looks small, but it yields inexpensive, vital information that can be crucial to pet care.

In short, if we learn that the condition has caused the blood to become more acidic or more basic than normal, that’s evidence to do more thorough testing to track down a problem that could be serious.
If the tests reveal no abnormalities in the acid/base status, we can more safely treat the pet conservatively with medication and a bland diet for a few days and observe for improvements at home.
Dogs and cats become acidotic (the blood pH is reduced to indicate it is more acid than normal) as the result of many disease states. These include diabetes and diabetic ketoacidosis, renal insufficiency, Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s syndrome, and cardiac disease among many others. Most of these are significant problems that can lead to severe illness, and early diagnosis is always a plus. Missing these cases when the animals first show symptoms leads to delay in diagnosis and effective treatment – this is time in which the animals can become much sicker.
Changes in the acid levels during treatment can also be crucial in monitoring the efficacy of therapy, and having this lab equipment right in the hospital helps us to treat diseases more safely and accurately.

It’s hard to imagine the days when guesswork was such an important component of medicine; now any hospital that has this equipment just got better! Now we can feel confident that conservative treatment should be effective, and that patients with serious illnesses will be treated in the most effective manner possible.

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