CT scans, X-rays or other technologies are used if your pet is experiencing a known condition or certain symptoms in order to get a better look at their internal structures. Below, our Thornton vets talk about what you can expect during your cat or dog's diagnostic imaging appointments and what x-rays, CT scans and more are used for.
CT Scans & X-Rays For Pets
Computed tomographic imaging, also known as a "CT" or "cat scan", works by producing multiple individual images or "slices" throughout a region of interest in the body. A common comparison to an image produced by a CT scanner is individual slices of bread that make up a complete loaf. Using this machine your vet is able to take a series of images which are 2D 'slices' and put them together to gain a full 3D view of your cat's structures. This reconstruction of your cat's body can be helpful if you are planning for surgery or any other intensive treatment. 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 and/or dog's body. Mainly your cat's and/or dog's bones. X-rays pass through the body, and they are absorbed in different volumes depending on the density of the material that they have to pass through.
What is the purpose of routine diagnostic imaging for dogs and cats?
X-rays are one of the most commonly used types of veterinary diagnostics which are able to help vets to get a view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs so that they can diagnose issues such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowing foreign objects, and more.
X-ray images can help vets spot some tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs which may lead to a diagnosis like heart disease or cancer. A detailed view, however, of organs, tissues, and ligaments cannot be obtained using X-ray technology. In these cases, other diagnostic imaging such as MRI and ultrasounds, are more beneficial. An X-ray of a pregnant dog can also help you to prepare for the birth of puppies by allowing you to know how many puppies your dog is expecting, and whether a c-section may be required 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.
Do you need to prepare for X-rays or cat scans for cats and dogs?
Often, an X-ray and CT scan will be done at the time of concern which means that you will not need to worry about preparing your pet for the visit.
If you have an X-ray or CT scan that was booked ahead of time for your pet, your vet will provide you with all of the information needed to ensure that they get the clearest image possible.
Is my pet awake during diagnostic imaging?
Some pets may require sedation in order to be able to get a clear image, safely. If your pet is able to quietly and comfortably lay on the table to the imaging appointment then your vet may proceed without sedation.
On the other hand, if your dog or cat is squirmy, edgy, or in pain, sedation will be recommended. Other reasons why sedation may be used during your pet's X-ray or scan include: if the dog's or cat's muscles need to be relaxed to get a clear image, or when the X-ray is being used on the skull, teeth, or spine.
A CT scan is a very safe procedure. Like an X-ray, CT scans use ionizing radiation, which is not harmful to pets at the low doses at which they are used.
Is routine diagnostic imaging for dogs and cats safe?
While the use of X-rays and CT scanners is generally considered safe for dogs and cats, radiation is involved. So, X-rays and CTs are typically used only occasionally and generally as diagnostic tools. In some cases, vets will use X-ray technology to glean information about a dog's pregnancy. Other forms, however, of imaging such as ultrasounds, could be used in that case.
You can reach out to your vet to express any possible concerns that you have about diagnostic imaging for cats and dogs. They will be able to give you an understanding of the risks versus the benefits in your dog's and cat's particular case.
What is the cost of CT scans or X-rays for cats and dogs?
There is a range of factors that will dictate the cost of your dog's or cat's X-rays, 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. If you are concerned about the cost of your cat or dog's X-rays, ask your vet for an estimate before proceeding.
The same thing typically goes for cat scans for cats and dogs. The cost will depend entirely on what exactly is done to your pet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.