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Diagnostic Imaging for Your Dog or Cat

If your dog or cat has an X-ray (radiograph) or CT scan coming up, you might be wondering how the appointment will work and how you can prepare. In this post, our Orlando vets explain what you can expect when you bring your dog or cat to a veterinarian for diagnostic imaging.

About CT Scans & X-rays on Cats & Dogs

Also referred to as a CT scan or cat scan, computed tomographic imaging works by producing multiple single images or "slices" throughout an area of interest in the body. Think of an image produced by a CT scanner as similar to individual slices of bread that make up a complete loaf. The CT machine produces two-dimensional slices of a section of your pet's anatomy before reconfiguring them into a complete image we'll be able to see. 

These slices can also be used to produce three-dimensional reconstructions that can be very useful for things like surgical planning. Once the images have been created, they are sent to a veterinary specialist to to review and interpret. 

An X-ray is a quick, painless procedure that generates images of your dog or cat's internal structures, primarily the bones. X-rays penetrate the body and are absorbed in various amounts based on the density of the material they must pass through. 

What can dog or cat X-rays and CT scans help vets diagnose? 

X-rays are one of the most valuable, and frequently used, tools in both veterinary and human healthcare. X-rays can help vets see your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs so they can diagnose issues such as fractured bones or bladder stones, see whether your pet may have swallowed a foreign object, or identify other problems that may be causing concerning symptoms. 

Veterinarians can use X-ray images to identify certain tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs. This may lead to a diagnosis of conditions like cancer or heart disease. However, X-ray technology is unable to provide a detailed image of tissues, organs, or ligaments. In these circumstances, other types of diagnostic imaging, like ultrasounds and MRIs, are more useful. 

An X-ray can help us prepare for the birth of puppies by telling us how many puppies your dog is carrying and whether a C-section may be necessary. 

With high-resolution images produced by a CT scanner, a vet can perform a detailed examination of your pet's anatomy, which wouldn't be possible with traditional X-rays. CT scanners can help us see bony and soft tissue structures in the body in great detail. 

How can I prepare for my dog or cat's X-ray or CT scan appointment?

An X-ray and CT scan are often done in a veterinary diagnostic lab when the animal is brought in to be examined by the vet. No preparation is required. 

If you've booked a CT scan or X-ray ahead of time for your pet, your vet will provide all instructions you'll need for the day of the procedure. 

Will my dog or cat be sedated when they have their X-ray or CT scan?

For a clear X-ray, sedation may occasionally be necessary. Sedation won't be necessary if your dog or cat is at ease, not in too much discomfort, and able to lay comfortably still during the X-ray or CT scan.

However, sedation will be suggested if your dog or cat is jittery, anxious, or in pain. The muscles of the dog or cat must be relaxed in order to obtain a clear image, or the skull, teeth, or spine are being examined using an X-ray, which are other scenarios in which sedation may be used during your pet's X-ray or scan.

A CT scan is a very safe procedure. Like an X-ray, CT scans use ionizing radiation, but at doses that are not harmful to pets.

Are X-rays & CT scans safe for dogs & cats?

While X-rays and CT scanners are generally thought to be safe for dogs and cats, radiation is involved. As a result, X-rays and CT scans are typically used as diagnostic tools only on occasion. In some cases, veterinarians will use X-ray technology to determine a dog's pregnancy. However, other types of imaging, such as ultrasounds, could be used in that situation.

Speak with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the use of X-ray or CT scanner technology and the health of your dog or cat. They will be able to explain the risks versus the benefits in your dog's and cat's specific case.

How much will my dog or cat's X-rays or CT scan cost?

The cost of your dog's or cat's X-rays will be determined by a variety of factors, including the size of your pet, the area being X-rayed, whether sedation was used, the type of clinic, the location of your veterinary clinic and diagnostic laboratory, and more. If you are concerned about the cost of your cat or dog's X-rays, consult with your veterinarian before proceeding.

CT scans are the same. The cost will be different based on what needs to be done to your pet.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat or dog displaying symptoms that have you worried? Our vets are equipped to provide a fast, accurate diagnosis of your pet's issue. Contact our vets in Orlando to book an appointment.

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MetroWest Veterinary Clinic is welcoming new patients! Our Orlando vets can't wait to get to know you and your companion. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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