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Diagnostic Imaging for Your Dog or Cat

If your pet is experiencing certain symptoms or a known condition, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic imaging such as CT scans or X-rays to better look at their internal structures. Our vets in San Mateo explain what these appointments entail and how these imaging techniques can be used to diagnose your cat or dog's health issues.

CT Scans & X-Rays For Pets

Computed tomographic imaging, also known as a "CT" or "cat scan," creates multiple individual images or "slices" of a particular area of the body. The images produced by a CT scanner are similar to slices of bread that make up a full loaf.

By taking a series of 2D images, your vet can create a 3D view of your cat's structures. This can be helpful in planning for surgery or other intensive treatments. After the images are produced, they are sent to a veterinary specialist to be reviewed and interpreted.

An X-ray is a quick and painless test that produces images of the inside of your cat or dog's body, mainly of their bones. X-rays pass through the body and are absorbed differently based on the material density they 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. They enable vets to view your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs, which helps them diagnose various issues such as broken bones, bladder stones, and swallowing foreign objects.

X-ray images can also help vets spot some tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs, which may lead to a diagnosis of heart disease or cancer. However, other laboratory diagnostic imaging tools like MRI and ultrasound are more beneficial for a more detailed view of organs, tissues, and ligaments. 

An X-ray of a pregnant dog can help you 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. On the other hand, the high-resolution images produced by the CT machine help evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail. CT scanners provide excellent detail of the body's bony and soft tissue structures.

Do you need to prepare for X-rays or cat scans for cats and dogs?

When concerned about your pet's health, your vet may perform an X-ray or CT scan. In such cases, you don't need to worry about preparing your pet for the visit. However, if you have already booked an X-ray or CT scan appointment for your pet, your vet will provide you with all the necessary information to ensure that your pet gets the clearest image possible.

Is my pet awake during diagnostic imaging?

Some pets may need to be sedated for a clear and safe image during their imaging appointment. Your vet may proceed without sedation if your pet is calm and comfortable lying on the table.

However, if your pet is restless, anxious, or in pain, sedation is likely to be recommended. Sedation may also be necessary if your pet's muscles need to be relaxed for a clearer image or if the X-ray is used to scan the skull, teeth, or spine.

Despite using ionizing radiation, which is sometimes used in X-rays, CT scans are completely safe. Pets are exposed to low doses of radiation, which do not pose any harm to them.

Is routine diagnostic imaging for dogs and cats safe?

Although X-rays and CT scanners are generally considered safe for dogs and cats, they involve radiation. Therefore, they are typically used only occasionally and specifically as diagnostic tools. In some cases, vets may use X-ray technology to obtain information about a dog's pregnancy, but in other cases, imaging methods such as ultrasounds may be more appropriate.

If you have concerns about your pets' diagnostic imaging, you can always contact your vet. They can help you understand the risks versus the benefits of a particular imaging method in your pet's specific case.

What is the cost of CT scans or X-rays for cats and dogs?

The cost of X-rays for your cat or dog will depend on several factors, such as the size of your pet, the area being X-rayed, whether sedation is used, the type of clinic, the location of your veterinary clinic, and more.

If you are concerned about the cost of your cat or dog's X-rays, it is best to ask your vet for an estimate before proceeding. The same applies to cat scans for cats and dogs, as the cost will depend on the procedures and services performed on 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 to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

If your pet has been scheduled for diagnostic imaging and you would like to learn more, please contact our San Mateo vets.

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At South Hillsdale Animal Hospital, our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Mateo companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services and becoming a new client with us.

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