From checking in on your pet's overall health to pinpointing a specific issue, imaging techniques can help. Our Lacey vets discuss routine diagnostic imaging tools such as X-ray and CT (CAT) scans for dogs and cats and how they help diagnose and monitor your pet's health.
Routine Diagnostic Imaging for Dogs or Cats
Your vet is able to monitor your pet's internal functions with the help of diagnostic imaging tools. This can help track your cat or dog's overall health and well-being.
Electromagnetic radiation and other technologies are used in routine diagnostic imaging procedures for dogs and cats. They capture extremely detailed images of your pet's bones, soft tissues, and other internal structures so your vet can offer an accurate diagnosis and plan effective treatments.
What will happen during your pet's diagnostic imaging appointment?
While both are used to gain a better view of the internal functions of dogs and cats, X-rays and CT scans are performed differently:
X-rays (Digital X-rays or Radiography) For Dogs & Cats
With a digital X-ray (radiograph), your pet will be exposed to minuscule amounts of radiation allowing us to see their internal structures with ease.
This procedure is used to evaluate organs and bones and to diagnose conditions such as spinal cord diseases, arthritis, broken bones, bladder stones, and some tumors.
You can also rest easy knowing that X-rays are safe for dogs and cats of all ages and in all conditions. The level of radiation is so low that it can even be used on pets that are pregnant.
CT Scans (CAT scans) For Dogs & Cats
Often referred to as a CAT scan or CT scan, computed tomography is useful when assessing the nasal passage, sinuses, lungs, thorax, ears, abdomen, and some orthopedic areas.
Your vet might recommend a CT scan if your pet has any condition ranging from lung disease to pulmonary fibrosis, metastatic cancer (before surgery), tumors or masses in the chest cavity, disease in the nasal cavity, trauma to the spine or pelvis, vascular anomalies or orthopedic developmental disease (elbow dysplasia).
If your cat or dog has a CT scan, we will be able to better view their soft tissues and bones. For the scan itself, your pet will be placed on a table that will slowly enter the machine and a full image will be produced. This form of diagnostic testing can be completed quite quickly which makes is a popular choice.
For these types of scans, an X-ray tube rotates around the patient to record images from several angles (the suspected health issue will determine the number of images captured) to create slices. The slices are then stacked together to produce a 3D image of your pet without superimposition of other tissues or organs.
Is sedation necessary for diagnostic imaging visits?
When a pet is having an X-ray, whether or not they are sedated depends on their temperament, whether they can sit still, and whether the X-ray itself can be performed while your dog or cat is in a comfortable position. The vet may still recommend using anesthesia when taking images of certain parts of your pet's skeleton.
When having a CT scan, your dog or cat will need to lie absolutely still for the entire duration. Your pet's vitals will be monitored throughout their visit as they will need to be sedated.
If biopsies need to be done before an ultrasound, your pet will require a heavy sedative or short-acting anesthetic to help them relax while the vet performs the procedure and to avoid potential complications. Your vet will notify you if this is required.
What happens once my pet's appointment is complete?
Our veterinarians will review results from digital X-rays and ultrasounds in-house and will come up with a treatment plan suited to your pet's needs and conditions.
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.