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Diagnostic Imaging for Your Dog or Cat: CT Scans, X-Rays and More

Diagnostic imaging capabilities allow your vet to efficiently produce accurate diagnostic information about your pet's condition and provide immediate treatment options. The imaging tool used will vary depending on the condition that is being diagnosed. Our Blountville vets talk about the various types of diagnostic imaging for your cat or dog such as CT scans, x-rays, ultrasounds and more.

X-Rays or Radiography For Your Dog or Cat

The most commonly used form of diagnostic imaging in medicine is the X-ray or Radiography. X-rays allow for an internal 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-ray technology is able to show an overall view of the dense internal workings of your pet but they will not provide a detailed view of your pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments. If a more detailed view is necessary for diagnosis then your vet will opt for other diagnostic imaging such as MRI and Ultrasound which will be much more beneficial in these cases.

For dogs and cats, X-rays are painless, non-invasive, and regarded as being very safe. Digital X-rays in particular use radiation at extremely low doses. Even X-rays of pregnant dogs are safe because the amount of radiation exposure needed to perform radiography is very low. Sometimes sedation is necessary to obtain a clear image of your body. Sedation won't be required if your dog or cat is calm, not in too much pain, and able to lay comfortably while the X-ray is being taken. Some animals can't unwind while undergoing the diagnostic procedure, so your veterinarian may sedate them to keep them calm and make things simpler for them.

Ultrasound Imaging For Your Dog or Cat

Sometimes our cat or dog may eat objects that they shouldn't or they can develop conditions such as cysts or pregnancy which are unable to be seen using the standard x-ray. 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.

Ultrasounds provide your vet with the opportunity to examine the structure of your cat or dog's organs so we can discover and identify blockages, tumors or other problems.

There are different ways to get ready depending on the kind of ultrasound your pet will have and where on the body your vet will be looking. Ask your veterinarian how to get ready for your pet's ultrasound. For abdominal ultrasounds in particular, you might be asked to fast for between 8 and 12 hours. When the bladder is full of urine, we can best examine it. For this reason, it is best if your cat or dog does not urinate for three to six hours prior to the ultrasound.

It is most likely that your vet will shave the area on your cat or dog that they will be performing the ultrasound. While most pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated if they are anxious or unable to be controlled.

PET/CT Scans For Your Dog or Cat

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 far beyond the capabilities of the X-ray machine.

With the aid of a CT scanner, your veterinarian can see the soft tissues in addition to an incredibly detailed view of your pet's skeletal system. The areas of the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones and joints, and the chest and lungs are those where CT imaging is most frequently used. The thyroid gland, the thyroid nodes, the abdominal organs, the brain and skull, and vascular structures can all be examined using the CT scanner.

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 to diagnose certain types of cancer.

CT & PET Scan Process

The CT and PET scans have one thing in common: your pet must remain still throughout the procedure. As a result, general anesthesia is commonly used to put your pet to sleep while your veterinarian performs the imaging. During 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 is completed in a relatively short period of time. 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 handling your pet's treatment.

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 wasn't until recently that it started to be looked at as a part of routine diagnostic imaging for cats and dogs.

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. 

An MRI for a dog or cat typically takes 45 minutes from start to finish. The patient must remain completely still for an MRI to be successful. A general anesthetic will be administered to your dog or cat prior to their MRI scan to ensure the success of their scan. Blood tests and X-rays are usually recommended prior to the MRI to ensure that your pet is healthy enough to be sedated.

Diagnostic Imaging For Your Dog or Cat at Airport Pet Emergency Clinic

Our Blountville board-certified specialists and emergency vets are pleased to provide advanced veterinary diagnostics. These diagnostic tools allow us to provide you (or your primary care vet) with an accurate diagnosis of your pet's medical issues. Contact us to learn more about the advanced veterinary care and diagnostic imaging at Airport Pet Emergency Clinic.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes. Airport Pet Emergency Clinic does not provide MRIs or CT Scans.

If your cat or dog might require the use of diagnostic imaging for diagnosis, please contact our Blountville vets to schedule a visit.

New Patients Welcome

Airport Pet Emergency Clinic is open weekday evenings, overnight, weekends and holidays to provide your pet with urgent care when needed. Our experienced Blountville vets are passionate about caring for companion animals.

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Contact (423) 279-0574