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X-rays & CT Scans for Dogs & Cats

Diagnostic imaging can help with both routine care to monitor health and to help diagnose health concerns as they occur. Here, our Oceanside vets discuss the purpose of X-rays and CT scans for cats and dogs and what you should know about them.

The Purpose of CT (CAT) Scans & X-rays for Cats & Dogs 

Computed tomographic imaging, also known as a "CT" or "cat scan" for dogs and cats, works by producing multiple individual images or "slices" throughout a region of interest in the body through the use of radiation (X-rays) and a computer.  A common comparison to an image produced by a CT scanner is 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 and then reconfigures them into a complete image we can view.  These slices can also be used to create three-dimensional reconstructions that can be very useful for things like surgical planning. Once the images are produced, they are sent to a veterinary specialist to review and interpret. 

An X-ray is a quick, painless test that produces images of the structures inside your cat's or dog's body, primarily the bones. X-ray rays pass through your body and are absorbed in different amounts depending on the material density through which they must pass.

What is routine diagnostic imaging used for in dogs and cats?

X-rays are one of the most helpful, and frequently used tools in both human healthcare and veterinary healthcare. X-rays can help vets get a view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs so that they can diagnose issues such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowed foreign objects, and more.

X-ray images can assist veterinarians in detecting tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs, which can lead to a diagnosis of heart disease or cancer. X-ray technology cannot provide a detailed view of organs, tissues, or ligaments. Other diagnostic imaging, such as MRI and ultrasound, is more useful in these cases. An X-ray of a pregnant dog can also help you prepare for the birth of puppies by letting you know how many puppies your dog is expecting and whether a c-section is necessary for any reason.

The high-resolution images produced by the CT machine help us to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail - a detail that we would otherwise not be able to see using standard X-rays. CT scanners provide excellent detail of bony and soft tissue structures in the body. 

How should I prepare my pet for their diagnostic imaging appointment?

When an animal is brought in to see the vet for a problem, X-rays and CT scans are frequently performed. As a result, there is no need for preparation. Your veterinarian will examine your pet; if an X-ray or CT scan is necessary, they will explain the procedure and what they will be looking for.

If you have an X-ray or CT scan that was booked ahead of time for your pet, your vet will provide all the instructions you will need for the day of the procedure.

Is sedation necessary with X-rays and CT scans for dogs and cats?

Sedation is sometimes required to get a clear X-ray. If your dog or cat is calm, not in too much pain, and able to lay in a comfortable position while the X-ray or CT scan is being taken, sedation will not be necessary.

On the other hand, sedation will be suggested if your dog or cat is jittery, apprehensive, or in pain. Sedation may also be used during your pet's X-ray or scan if the dog or cat's muscles need to be relaxed to obtain a clear image or if the skull, teeth, or spine are being examined using X-ray technology.

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. Because your pet needs to be still during the CT scan, general anesthesia is required for your pets.

Is diagnostic imaging safe for pets?

Although the use of X-rays and CT scanners is typically thought to be safe for dogs and cats, radiation is involved, so X-rays and CTs are usually only used occasionally and generally as a diagnostic tool. Although other imaging techniques like ultrasound may be used in that situation, veterinarians occasionally use X-ray technology to learn more about a dog's pregnancy.

If you're concerned about the use of X-ray or CT scanner technology and your dog's or cat's health, speak to your vet. Your veterinarian will be able to give you an understanding of the risks versus the benefits in your dog's and cat's particular case so that you can decide whether you want your dog or cat to have an X-ray or CT scan.

What is the cost of X-rays and CT scans for cats and dogs?

The price of your dog's or cat's X-rays will depend on many different things, such as the size of your pet, the area being X-rayed, whether sedation was used, the type of clinic, where your veterinary clinic is located, and more. Ask your veterinarian for a price estimate before proceeding if you are worried about the cost of having your cat or dog's X-rays taken.

CT scans are the same as X-rays, the cost will be different based on what needs to be done to your pet. A pet CT scan takes about 45 minutes to an hour, not including anesthesia so the price can change.

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.

If you would like to learn more about your pet's upcoming imaging appointment or about the results from a recent visit, please contact our Oceanside vets.

Specialty Vets at Surfside Animal Hospital

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Surfside Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Oceanside companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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