With the help of various types of equipment and techniques, we are able to gain a better understanding of what is happening beneath the surface for your pet. Here, our La Mesa vets share the purpose of dog and cat X-rays and CT scans performed in our veterinary diagnostics lab and how we use these to help treat your pet.

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

Diagnostic imaging helps us to gain valuable insight into the function of your pet's internal systems and issues that may be 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", works by producing 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 they are absorbed in different volumes depending on the density of the material that they have to pass through.

What can these veterinary diagnostics show us?

X-rays are used to help provide your vet with a view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs so that they can diagnose 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. In these cases, other diagnostic imaging such as MRI and ultrasounds, are more beneficial. An X-ray of a pregnant dog can also help you to 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.

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

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 which means that you will not need to worry about preparing your pet for the visit to our veterinary diagnostic laboratory. In some cases, the imaging may be booked for a future date at our veterinary diagnostics 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 both people and pets. If your dog or cat can quietly and comfortably lay on the table to the imaging appointment then your vet may choose to 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: if the dog's or cat's muscles need to be relaxed to get a clear image, or when the X-ray is being 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?

While the use of X-rays and CT scanners is generally considered safe for dogs and cats, radiation is involved. So, X-rays and CTs are typically used only occasionally and generally as diagnostic tools. In some cases, vets will 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 reach out to your vet to express any possible concerns that you have about diagnostic imaging for cats and dogs. They will be able to give you an understanding of the risks versus the benefits in your dog's and 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 be the location of the clinic and the expertise of the practitioner as well as the type of equipment used. The age and species of your pet, as well as any additional treatments, such as sedation, also play a role in the final amount that you will pay.

Please speak with your vet to discuss the estimate of the cost for your pet and a breakdown of the bill.

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 would like to learn more about your pet's upcoming imaging appointment at our veterinary diagnostics lab, please contact our La Mesa vets today.