Tools of the trade: Refractometer

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refractometerby Dr Gillian Sylvestre, Little Critters Peterinary Care, Bundamba, QLD

We didn’t want to spend a lot on a refractometer so I bought this one off eBay. It’s a pretty cheap model but it has been working fine for the past five years.

What’s good about it

It’s very easy to use and gives a quick idea of whether there’s a problem with kidneys. If a client thinks their pet is drinking more than normal, but they don’t want to spend money on blood analysis, we can take a urine sample and use it to see whether the kidneys are compromised. It’s not the gold standard but the amount of information we can get out of a refractometer makes it a very handy machine.

If an animal has an abdominal effusion, we can do a tap, take a sample and look at the protein levels and specific gravity of the fluid. This can often give an indication or confirmation of why the effusion is occurring.

We have Vetscan and i-STAT machines, as well as access to a fantastic travelling veterinary ultra-sonographer [Dr Anna Galloway] and, of course, QML and Idexx Laboratories. However, our practice is located in a relatively low socio-economic area so often clients can’t afford full diagnostics. The refractometer can assist us in helping them make an informed decision about the options available.

It was so cheap that if anything goes wrong or breaks, we’ll just buy another one. It’s hardly got any ‘working’ parts and we can calibrate it ourselves with distilled water. Even an expensive refractometer from a veterinary wholesaler is still cheap compared to the amount of information you can get out of it.

What’s not so good

There are other ways of gaining much more accurate information but for a super fast result, you can’t beat this.

Where did you get it

We purchased our refractometer online but new models are available from Vetquip.

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