Various equipment and techniques help us better understand what is happening beneath the surface for your furry friend. Our Madison vets discuss diagnostic imaging for dogs and cats and how CT scans and X-rays help us treat your pet.

What are CT scans and X-rays for dogs and cats?

Diagnostic imaging helps us gain valuable insight into the function of your pet's internal systems and issues affecting their internal structures. Two of the most common types of diagnostic imaging that we routinely perform are CT scans and X-rays.

Computed tomographic imaging, also known as a 'CT' or 'CAT scan,' produces multiple individual images or 'slices' throughout a region of interest in your cat or dog's 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 can take a series of images, which are 2D 'slices' and put them together to gain a full 3D view of your pet'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 are absorbed in different volumes depending on the bone or tissue density they have to pass through.

What to Expect From Routine Diagnostic Imaging for Dogs & Cats

X-rays help your vet see your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs, diagnosing issues such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowing foreign objects, and more.

These images produced with X-rays 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. Other diagnostic imaging, such as MRI and ultrasounds, are more beneficial 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 may be required for any reason.

The high-resolution images produced by the CT machine help us 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 the body's bony and soft tissue structures. 

Should you prepare your pet for a visit to our laboratory?

Often, an X-ray and CT scan will be done at the time of concern, so you will not need to worry about preparing your pet for a visit to our veterinary diagnostic laboratory. In some cases, the imaging may be booked for a future date at our veterinary diagnostic laboratory, and the vet will provide you with detailed instructions to prepare your pet.

Will my cat or dog need to be sedated for their visit?

Sedation is commonly used to help the vet perform the imaging procedure without issues and minimal risk to people and pets. If your dog or cat can quietly and comfortably lie on the table to the imaging appointment, 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 whether the dog's or cat's muscles need to be relaxed to get a clear image or when the X-ray is 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 veterinary diagnostic imaging safe for pets?

Radiation is involved while using X-rays and CT scanners is generally considered safe for dogs and cats. So, X-rays and CTs are used only occasionally and generally as diagnostic tools. Sometimes, vets 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 contact your vet to express concerns about diagnostic imaging for cats and dogs. They will be able to explain the risks versus the benefits in your dog's or cat's particular case.

What do CT scans and X-rays cost for dogs and cats?

As with many other veterinary care services, the costs will vary from clinic to clinic and from pet to pet when you bring your dog or cat in for diagnostic imaging. This is because several different factors contribute to the final cost.

This can include the clinic's location, the practitioner's expertise, and the type of equipment used. The age and species of your pet and any additional treatments, such as sedation, also affect the final amount you will pay.

Please speak with your vet to discuss your pet's estimated cost and a bill breakdown.

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.

If you want to learn more about your pet's upcoming imaging appointment at our veterinary diagnostics lab, please contact our Madison vets today.