"When I saw his white blood cell count, I expected he'd have a fever or diarrhea."
These were the words of my veterinarian when she told me Pan's white blood cell count was low.
Looking at him, I didn't see a sick horse. His temperature, which I'd been monitoring for several days, was normal. Whenever my hand moved near my jacket pocket, his ears pricked in hopeful expectation that I'd slip him a treat.
Nope, nothing outwardly wrong with this animal's health.
Animal health is rampant with disease and illness, which gives an animal health copywriter (that would be me) lots of fodder to write about. All critters are afflicted, from pigs and chickens to beloved house pets. And just like in human medicine, veterinary medicine turns to diagnostics for answers.
But what happens when the patient's behavior contradicts what the science reports? What do veterinarians do when the test results are abnormal but the animal seems fine?
In Pan's case, he had a WBC (white blood cell) count that was low, as the results from his lab report below show.
But contrary to what my vet said about fever or diarrhea, he displayed no symptoms indicative of the low count. He didn't act sick at all.
We reran the test one week later, and the count, although still low, improved to 3.3.
These results presented a dilemma. A horse with such a low count might have something brewing. Pan might be risky to admit to Tufts Large Animal Hospital for his upcoming dental surgery.
After weighing all the facts – Pan's WBC test said something was wrong, but his demeanor spoke otherwise – my veterinarian had to consider the conflicting evidence and make a call.
She decided that his lack of fever and otherwise healthy behavior took precedence over his white blood cell count. Luckily, Tufts agreed with her, and Pan's surgery went as scheduled.
Unfortunately, this experience is not uncommon.
Symptoms and test results in veterinary medicine don't always go hand in hand to align neatly with a diagnosis. Much to the dismay of veterinarians and owners.
Scientific data always has a role in the veterinary diagnostic process, but it's never the be-all or end-all. Good vets listen to and observe their patients, knowing that sometimes the animal gives a better indication of what's going on in its body than the results of a lab test.
If you're a veterinarian, you're probably busy caring for patients, so thanks for taking the time to read this! If you want to grow your veterinary practice or animal health business by sharing helpful content or want to learn more about content marketing, contact me or call 508-277-4929.
Suzanne Quigley - Copywriter