Diagnostic Testing

When your pet is ill or injured, it can be a very stressful time for both you and your pet. Rest assured, at St. Francis Animal Hospital, our facilities are equipped with highly specialized diagnostic equipment, allowing us to quickly perform tests in order to determine the cause of your pet’s signs, often without the need for referral to a specialist or waiting for results from a referral laboratory.

We perform a broad range of blood tests, urinalysis, cytology, skin scrapings, and fecal analysis in our in-house laboratory, allowing us to obtain fast and accurate results. We perform complete blood count, blood serum chemistry, thyroid testing, glucose, and SNAP testing for heartworm, tick-borne diseases (Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline leukemia virus (FELV), and testing for giardia and pancreatitis. As the number of Lyme disease cases increase in Northern Virginia, quick and accurate testing for Lyme disease is essential. The sooner we know your pet has Lyme disease, the sooner we can begin treatment.

For more complex testing, such as extensive or specialized blood testing and bacterial culture and sensitivity testing, we send samples to an outside referral laboratory for veterinary specialists to review.

Digital Radiographs (X-rays)

Digital radiographs are a type of imaging that our veterinarians use to diagnose broken bones, tumors, internal injuries, and infection. Digital radiographs provide the highest quality images and we have the results within seconds, allowing our team to identify the problem sooner and provide treatment much more quickly than standard X-rays. Digital radiographs eliminate the need for repeat films if they are too dark or too light, saving our team valuable time in an emergency and reducing the length of time a pet is sedated or anesthetized. In order to achieve the best possible images and keep your pet calm, we may give your pet a sedative.


In addition to digital radiography, we perform ultrasonography (ultrasound), a type of imaging used to examine your pet’s soft tissues (muscles, internal organs, and surrounding tissues). Ultrasonography is quick and painless and allows our veterinarians to provide superior diagnoses, rather than relying on radiographs alone. Ultrasonography may be used in conjunction with other diagnostic testing to determine the cause of your pet’s symptoms.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Electrocardiogram (ECG), on the other hand, allows our veterinarians to assess the electrical impulses produced by the heart. By analyzing these impulses, we can detect abnormalities, such as arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), abnormal conduction, and abnormalities in the size and structure of the heart chambers. No special preparation is needed for an ECG and our veterinarians will perform this test if abnormalities are heard (irregular heartbeat, heart murmur or irregular heart sounds) during a routine wellness check or if your pet has exhibited signs associated with heart disease.

Ophthalmoscopic Examinations

Ophthalmoscopic examinations allow our veterinarians to view all parts of the eye. This exam is used when a pet presents to us with an eye problem and is critical in the assessment of vision changes and pupil irregularities, and also allows for the detection of foreign bodies in the cornea.


Tonometry allows our veterinarians to simply and quickly diagnose and monitor glaucoma. A tonometer accurately and gently measures the intraocular pressure in cats and dogs. This allows our veterinarians to adjust your pet’s treatment to ensure your pet remains pain-free and to avoid irreversible damage.

Fine Needle Aspiration

Fine needle aspiration, also called fine needle biopsy, is a technique most frequently used to collect cells from “lumps and bumps” on the body. It is also sometimes used to evaluate internal organs (e.g. liver, lungs, lymph nodes, or kidneys) and body fluids (e.g. joint fluid). A fine-gauge needle is introduced into the tissue and cells or fluid is aspirated, or sucked, into the syringe. Our veterinarians will examine these cells under a microscope to help make a diagnosis of your pet’s condition.


At St. Francis Animal Hospital, all our veterinarians are trained to perform specialized endoscopy, a non-invasive way to look inside your pet’s body. While your pet is sedated or lightly anesthetized, a small camera is guided into the body in order to examine the area of concern, take biopsy samples, and detect and/or remove foreign bodies.


Rhinoscopy, or nasal endoscopy, is performed by our veterinarians to get a quick and clear look at the nasal cavities, allowing for diagnosis of infections, inflammation, or tumors (both benign and malignant).


Otoscopy allows our veterinarians to examine the external auditory canal (ear canal), the tympanic membrane, and the middle ear. Foreign objects, tumors, abnormalities, and infections can be identified, allowing our veterinarians to diagnose and create a treatment plan for your pet.