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Diagnostic Imaging for Cats & Dogs

Diagnostic imaging is an exceptional tool used by our Poway vets to help us pinpoint the cause, extent, or seriousness of your pet's illness or injury. Depending on your pet's condition, the type of diagnostic imaging used will vary. Below are a few of the tests that your vet may recommend to help diagnose or treat your dog or cat.

Radiography - X-Rays for Dogs & Cats

X-rays are one of the most useful and widely used tools in veterinary medicine. X-rays can provide your veterinarian with an image of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs, allowing them to diagnose issues such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowing foreign objects, and more. X-ray images can assist veterinarians in detecting tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs, which may lead to a diagnosis of heart disease or cancer.

X-rays will not provide a detailed view of your pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments using x-ray technology. In these cases, other diagnostic imaging such as MRI and Ultrasound is more beneficial.

X-rays are painless, non-invasive, and considered very safe for dogs and cats. X-rays, particularly digital X-rays, use only very low doses of radiation. Because the level of radiation exposure required to perform radiography is very low, even X-rays of pregnant dogs are safe. Sedation is sometimes required in order to get a clear image of your body. If your dog or cat is calm, not in too much pain, and able to lay in a comfortable position while the X-ray is being taken, sedation will not be necessary. That said, if your pet is unsettled, anxious, or in pain, sedation may be necessary.

Ultrasound Imaging for Pets

Our beloved cats and dogs often get into things they shouldn’t or develop health issues such as cysts or tumors that require treatment. 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.

An ultrasound can assist our veterinarians in examining the structure of your pet's organs in order to detect and identify blockages, tumors, or other problems.

Ultrasounds on various parts of your pet's body necessitate different preparations. Speak with your veterinarian about how to prepare your pet for the ultrasound. For abdominal ultrasounds, you may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for 8 to 12 hours. When the urinary bladder is full of urine, we can examine it more thoroughly. This is why, if possible, your cat or dog should not urinate for 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound.

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

PET/CT Scan for Pets

Computed Tomography - CT Scans for Dogs & Cats

The CT machine's high-resolution images allow your veterinary team to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail, which would be impossible with standard X-rays.

CT scanners give your veterinarian an excellent image of your dog or cat's bony and soft tissue structures. The spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs are the most commonly imaged structures using CT technology. The CT machine can also be used to examine lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.

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.

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.

If your dog or cat needs diagnostic imaging done, contact Best Friends Veterinary Hospital. Our vets take pride in helping to restore the good health of Poway pets.

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Best Friends Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Poway companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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