How Does My Veterinarian Make a Diagnosis?
This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care.
Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.
When my pet has a problem, how does my veterinarian decide what is
causing the problem?
The approach to a health problem is based on training, experience and
probability. Some health problems are common, others are rare. Some
problems occur more commonly in young animals, other problems are more
common in aged pets. Some problems are common in one part of the country but
rarely occur in other locations.
After getting a history of your pet's problem and examining your pet,
your veterinarian will go through a mental or written process of listing all
the problems from the history and physical examination. The veterinarian
then decides which organ(s) and disease(s) may be causing the problems and
narrows down the lists based on the age, breed, sex and travel history of
The veterinarian then recommends tests to determine which organ(s) and
disease(s) may be responsible for your pet's problem(s). Tests are often
recommended in stages, beginning with screening tests that are relatively
inexpensive and have little potential for causing harm to the animal. Based
on the results of the screening tests more sophisticated tests, which often
cost more and may have some risks, may be recommended. Although your
veterinarian cannot predict what will be found on a specific test, usually
the veterinarian will provide some possible outcomes for each of the tests
so that you can decide whether the costs and risks are worth the information
that may be gained. This is referred to as cost-benefit ratio.
Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or
your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.
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