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Routine Diagnostic Imaging for Dogs & Cats

Diagnostic tools help your vet understand what's going on inside your pet's body. Without them, it would be challenging to keep your dog or cat healthy. Our Tucson vets explain common X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, and cat scans for dogs and cats.

Radiography - X-Rays for Dogs & Cats

X-rays are one of the most helpful, and frequently used tools in veterinary healthcare. X-rays can help your vet to get a view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs so that they can diagnose problems such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowed foreign objects, and more. X-ray images can help vets to spot some tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs which may lead to a diagnosis such as heart disease or cancer.

X-rays will not provide a detailed view of your pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments using x-ray technology. In these cases, other diagnostic imaging such as MRI and Ultrasound is more beneficial.

X-rays are non-invasive and painless for dogs and cats. X-rays, particularly digital X-rays, use extremely low radiation doses. Even X-rays of pregnant dogs are safe because the level of radiation exposure required for radiography is very low. Sedation may be necessary in order to obtain a clear image of your body. Sedation is not required if your dog or cat is calm, not in too much pain, and able to lie in a comfortable position while the X-ray is being taken. However, sedation may be necessary if your pet is unsettled, anxious, or in pain.

Ultrasound Imaging for Pets

Our beloved cats and dogs often get into things they shouldn’t or develop health issues such as cysts or tumors that require treatment. Ultrasounds are a form of imaging technology that transmits sound waves into your pet’s body to produce a 'picture' of a specific body part. Veterinary ultrasounds are non-invasive and can be used to diagnose or evaluate problems with your pet's internal organs or check on your pet's pregnancy.

An ultrasound can help our vets examine the structure of your pet’s organs so we can discover and identify blockages, tumors or other problems.

Preparation for ultrasounds on various parts of your pet's body varies. Speak with your veterinarian to learn how to prepare your pet for an ultrasound. For abdominal ultrasounds, you may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for 8 to 12 hours. The urinary bladder is best examined when it is full of urine. This is why, if at all possible, your cat or dog should not urinate for 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound.

The area to be examined will likely be shaved so clear images can be produced. While most pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated.

PET/CT Scan for Pets

Computed Tomography - CT Scans for Dogs & Cats

The high-resolution images produced by the CT machine help your veterinary team to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail - detail that would be impossible to achieve with standard X-rays. 

CT scanners provide your veterinarian with an excellent image of your dog or cat's bony and soft tissue structures. CT technology is most commonly used to create images of the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs. The CT machine can also be used to examine lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.

Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans for Dogs & Cats

A CT scan combined with the administration of a contrast agent intravenously (IV) to your pet allows veterinarians to see increased areas of blood flow in the animal's body. PET scans help detect cancer and areas of inflammation. PET scans are used in humans to provide doctors with a detailed picture of how the patient's tissues and organs are functioning. PET scans are most commonly used for cancer detection and monitoring.

CT & PET Scan Process

CT and PET scans require the animal to be completely still. As a result, your veterinarian will perform these diagnostic imaging tests while your pet is under general anesthesia. Throughout the CT/PET procedure, your pet's vital signs are closely monitored while he or she is sedated. In most cases, a CT/PET scan takes only a few minutes. When the scan is finished, the images are typically interpreted by a specialist, and a detailed report with findings and diagnostic recommendations is sent to the veterinarian who is treating your pet.

MRI - Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Dogs & Cats

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been readily available to help diagnose human health concerns since the early 1980s, but it is only recently that veterinary MRIs have become more widely used.

MRI scans can provide your vet with high-resolution, detailed images of your pet's soft tissues including the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons, and abdominal organs. For many types of soft tissue injuries or diseases, the use of veterinary MRIs can provide a more detailed image of your pet's body than other diagnostic imaging tools such as X-Rays or CT Scans.

If your dog or cat is exhibiting symptoms such as limping, lameness, seizures, joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, an MRI might be recommended to help diagnose the cause of your pet's symptoms. 

MRIs of dogs and cats take 45 minutes to an hour to complete. In order for an MRI to be successful, the patient must be completely still. To ensure the success of your pet's MRI, a general anesthetic will be administered prior to the scan. Blood tests and X-rays are usually recommended before an MRI to ensure that your pet is healthy enough to be sedated.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes. Pet Doctor does not offer CT Scans or MRIs.

If your dog or cat needs an X-ray, or ultrasound, contact our Tucson vets. We take pride in helping to restore the good health of pets.

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