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Diagnostic Imaging for Your Dog or Cat

Diagnostic Imaging for Your Dog or Cat

Diagnostic tools such as X-rays and CT scans help your veterinarian understand what's happening inside your pet's body. Without them, it would be much more difficult to keep your cat or dog healthy. In this post, we describe routine diagnostic imaging tests for dogs and cats that are often performed by the veterinary teams at our clinics in St. Louis. 

Radiogaphy: X-Rays for Dogs & Cats

One of the most frequently used tools in veterinary healthcare, X-rays can help your vet examine your pet's internal organs, tissues and bones so problems such as bladder stones, fractured bones, swallowed foreign objects, and more can be diagnosed. X-ray images can help veterinarians detect enlarged organs, pregnancy, and some tumors. These diagnostic assessments may lead to a diagnosis such as cancer or heart disease. 

Radiography is painless, non-invasive and considered very safe for dogs and cats. X-rays, especially digital X-rays), use only very low doses of radiation. since the level of radiation needed to perform radiography is very low, it's even safe for pregnant dogs to have X-rays. Sometimes, sedation is required to capture a clear image of your pet's body. If your cat or dog is able to remain calm, is not in too much pain, and can lay in a comfortable position while the X-ray is being taken, sedation will not be needed. However, sedation may be necessary if your pet is feeling anxious or unsettled, or is experiencing a significant amount of pain.

It's important to note that X-ray technology will not provide a detailed look at your pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments. In these cases, other diagnostic imaging technology such as veterinary MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and ultrasound is more beneficial. 

Ultrasound Imaging for Pets 

Our adorable four-legged friends sometimes get into things they shouldn't or develop health problems such as tumors or cysts that need to be treated. Veterinary ultrasound is a non-invasive type of imaging technology that transmits sound waves into your pet's body to produce a 'picture' of a specific body part. Your veterinarian can use this tool to evaluate or diagnose issues in your pet's internal organs, such as blockages, tumors, or other problems. We're also able to check the status of your pet's pregnancy. 

Depending on which part of your pet's body will be examined with the ultrasound, different preparations will be required. Speak with your vet to learn how to prepare your pet for an ultrasound. You may need to withhold food and water for between 8 and 12 hours, particularly for abdominal ultrasounds. Because the urinary bladder is best examined when it is full of urine, your cat or dog should not urinate for about 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound, if possible. 

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

PET/CT Scan for Pets

Computed Tomography: CT Scans for Dogs & Cats 

The CT machine generates high-resolution images, which are referred to as CT scans. You may also hear them called CAT (computed axial tomography) scans. These can help your veterinary team evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail. This would be impossible to achieve with standard X-rays. 

Using a CT scanner, we can capture an outstanding image of your dog or cat's soft tissue and bony structures. CT technology is most often used to produce images of the inner ear, chest, lungs, nasal cavity, bones, joints, and spine. We can also use the CT machine to see lymph nodes, abdominal organs, the skull and brain, vascular structures, and the thyroid gland.

Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans for Dogs & Cats

A CT scan combined with the use of a contrast agent given to your pet intravenously (IV), allows vets to see increased areas of blood flow in the animal's body. PET scans aid in the detection of cancer and areas of inflammation. In humans, PET scans are used to give doctors a detailed view of how the patient's tissues and organs are working. PET scans are most commonly used to detect and monitor cancer.

CT & PET Scan Process

CT and PET require that the animal stay completely still. For this reason, your vet will perform these diagnostic imaging tests while your pet is under general anesthesia. Your pet's vital signs are closely monitored while under anesthesia throughout the entire CT/PET process. In most cases, a CT/PET scan only takes a short time. Once the scan is complete the images will typically be interpreted by a specialist and a detailed report with findings and diagnostic recommendations will be sent to the vet 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 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. 

Dog and cat MRIs take between 45 minutes to an hour to perform. For an MRI to be successful the patient needs to remain absolutely still. In order to ensure that your pet's MRI is successful, a general anesthetic will be administered to your dog or cat prior to their scan MRI scan. Vets typically recommend blood tests and X-rays be done before the MRI to help ensure that your pet is strong enough to be put under general anesthetic.

Diagnostic Imaging at Animal Emergency Clinic 

In a veterinary emergency or critical care situation, every minute counts. Our experienced St. Louis vets are here to provide advanced diagnostic tests, including digital X-rays, ultrasound, and ECG / EKG as part of our services. Because we're able to conduct these tests in-house and receive results quickly, we can diagnose your pet's symptoms and begin treatment as soon as possible. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Do you want to learn more about diagnostic imaging technology? Contact our veterinary team in St. Louis today.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Animal Emergency Clinic is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from St. Louis and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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