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MRI vs. CT Scan vs. X-Ray: Understanding Your Pet's Diagnostic Imaging Options

Diagnostic imaging capabilities allow your vet to efficiently produce accurate diagnostic information about your pet's condition and provide immediate treatment options. The imaging tool used will vary depending on the condition that is being diagnosed. Our Poway vets talk about the various types of diagnostic imaging for your cat or dog such as CT scans, X-rays, and MRIs.

X-Rays or Radiography For Your Dog or Cat

X-rays or radiography are the most commonly used types of diagnostic imaging in medicine. X-rays provide an internal view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs, allowing them to diagnose issues such as broken bones, bladder stones, foreign objects swallowed, and more.X-ray images can assist veterinarians in detecting tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs that could lead to a diagnosis of heart disease or cancer.

Although X-ray technology can provide an overall view of your pet's dense internal workings, it cannot provide a detailed view of your pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments. If a more detailed view is required for diagnosis, your veterinarian will use other diagnostic imaging techniques such as MRI and Ultrasound, which will be far more beneficial in these cases.

X-rays are non-invasive, painless, and well-tolerated by dogs and cats. X-rays, particularly digital X-rays, emit extremely low levels of radiation. Because the amount of radiation required for radiography is so low, even pregnant dogs can have their X-rays taken. Sedation may be required at times to obtain a clear image of your body. If your dog or cat is calm, not in too much pain, and can lie in a comfortable position while the X-ray is being taken, sedation will not be required. Some pets are unable to sleep during the diagnostic process and may be sedated to keep them calm and make things easier for your veterinarian.

PET/CT Scans For Your Dog or Cat

Computed Tomography - CT Scans for Dogs & Cats

The high-resolution images produced by the CT machine allow your veterinary team to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail, far beyond the capabilities of the X-ray machine.

CT scanners provide your veterinarian with not only an extremely detailed view of your cat or dog's skeletal structure, but also of the soft tissues. CT imaging is most commonly used to create images of the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs. We can also examine lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures with CT equipment.

Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans for Dogs & Cats

A CT scan combined with the intravenous (IV) administration of a contrast agent to your pet allows veterinarians to see enhanced areas of blood flow in the animal's body. PET scans aid in the detection of cancer and areas of inflammation. PET scans are used in humans to provide clinicians with a detailed picture of the patient's tissues and organs. PET scans are most commonly used to diagnose specific cancers.

CT & PET Scan Process

The CT and PET scans share one feature: your pet must remain still throughout the procedure. As a result, while your veterinarian performs the imaging, general anesthesia is frequently used to put your pet to sleep.Your pet's vital signs are constantly monitored while he or she is sedated during the CT/PET procedure. In most cases, a CT/PET scan only takes a few minutes. After the scan, the images are usually evaluated by a professional, and a detailed report with results and diagnostic recommendations is delivered to the veterinarian who is treating your pet.

MRI - Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Dogs & Cats

Since the early 1980s, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been widely used to aid in the diagnosis of human health issues, but it wasn't until recently that it was considered as a part of routine diagnostic imaging for cats and dogs.

MRI scans can provide your veterinarian with high-resolution, detailed images of your pet's soft tissues, such as the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons, and abdominal organs. For many types of soft tissue injuries or diseases, veterinary MRIs can provide a more detailed image of your pet's body than other diagnostic imaging tools like X-Rays or CT Scans.

If your dog or cat is limping, lame, having seizures, having joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, an MRI may be recommended to help diagnose the cause of your pet's symptoms.

An MRI for a dog or cat can take about 45 minutes from start to finish. The patient must be completely still for an MRI to be performed successfully. A general anesthesia will be administered to your dog or cat prior to the MRI scan to ensure the success of your pet's MRI.Before the MRI, blood tests and X-rays are frequently recommended to ensure that your pet is healthy enough to be sedated.

Diagnostic Imaging For Your Dog or Cat at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital

Our Poway veterinarians are pleased to provide advanced veterinary diagnostics. These diagnostic tools allow us to provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your pet's medical issues. Contact us to learn more about the advanced veterinary care and diagnostic imaging at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes only. Best Friends Veterinary Hospital is unable to provide MRIs or CT Scans at this time.

If your cat or dog might require the use of diagnostic imaging for diagnosis, please contact our Poway vets to schedule a visit.

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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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