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Understanding your medical imaging options for Cats & Dogs : CT scans, MRI, and X-rays explained

Our veterinary diagnostic imaging service enables our vets to quickly assess your pet's condition and provide immediate treatment recommendations. The specific imaging tool used varies depending on the nature of the condition. At our location, we offer CT scans, x-rays, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic imaging services for cats and dogs.

X-rays or Radiography For Your Dog or Cat

The most frequently used diagnostic imaging method in medicine is X-ray or Radiography. X-rays provide an internal view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs, enabling the diagnosis of issues such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowed foreign objects, and more. Additionally, X-ray images assist veterinarians in detecting certain tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs, potentially leading to diagnoses like heart disease or cancer.

X-ray technology offers an overall perspective of your pet's dense internal structures but does not offer detailed views of their organs, tissues, or ligaments. If a more precise diagnosis is required, your vet will choose alternative diagnostic imaging techniques like MRI and Ultrasound, which prove more advantageous in such cases.

X-rays are a safe and painless way to examine pets like dogs and cats. Digital X-rays, in particular, use extremely low radiation levels and are considered highly safe. Even pregnant dogs can undergo X-ray procedures with minimal risk. Sometimes, your pet may need to be sedated to get clear images of their body. However, sedation may not be necessary if they remain calm, comfortable, and can assume a good position. However, some pets may struggle to relax, making sedation necessary to keep them calm and facilitate the vet's work.

Ultrasound Imaging For Your Dog or Cat

Pets such as cats or dogs may swallow inappropriate objects or develop medical conditions like cysts or pregnancy that can't be detected through standard X-rays. That's where ultrasounds come in handy. They use non-invasive imaging technology that sends sound waves into your pet's body to create a precise visual representation of specific body parts. This allows veterinarians to diagnose internal organ issues and detect blockages, tumors, and other problems.

Ultrasounds enable vets to scrutinize your pet's organ structure and identify potential issues. The preparation requirements vary depending on the type of ultrasound and the specific body area under examination, which your vet will clarify. For abdominal ultrasounds, your pet may need to fast from food and water for 8 to 12 hours. A full bladder is optimal to assess the urinary bladder, so try to prevent your cat or dog from urinating for 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound.

Most of the time, your vet will need to shave the area to be examined with ultrasound. While many pets cooperate during the procedure, some anxious or uncontrollable animals may require sedation.

PET/CT Scans For Your Dog or Cat

Computed Tomography - CT Scans for Dogs & Cats

The CT machine is a powerful tool that produces high-resolution images for your veterinary team to assess your pet's anatomy. This machine provides much more detailed information than the X-ray machine. 

CT scanners offer an exceptionally clear view of your cat's or dog's skeletal structure and capture detailed images of soft tissues. They are commonly used to generate images of various parts such as the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones, joints, chest, and lungs. 

The CT machine can also evaluate lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull and brain, and vascular structures.

Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans for Dogs & Cats

A CT scan, when coupled with intravenous (IV) administration of a contrast agent to your pet, enables veterinarians to observe enhanced blood flow areas in the animal's body. PET scans assist in identifying cancer and inflammation regions. In human medicine, doctors rely on PET scans to understand the functionality of the patient's tissues and organs. The primary application of PET scans is the diagnosis of specific cancer types.

CT & PET Scan Process

Both CT and PET scans require your pet to remain still throughout the procedure. To ensure this, general anesthesia is often administered by your vet. Your pet's vital signs are constantly monitored during anesthesia throughout the CT/PET process. Usually, the scan is completed in a relatively short period of time. Once the scan is done, a specialist will interpret the images and prepare a detailed report with findings and diagnostic recommendations for the vet who is overseeing your pet's treatment.

MRI - Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Dogs & Cats

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been available for diagnosing human health concerns since the early 1980s. Recently, it has become a routine diagnostic imaging tool for cats and dogs. 

MRI scans provide high-resolution, detailed images of your pet's soft tissues, including the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons, and abdominal organs. In many cases of soft tissue injuries or diseases, veterinary MRIs offer more detailed images than other diagnostic tools such as X-rays or CT scans.

If your dog or cat shows symptoms like limping, lameness, seizures, joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, your veterinarian may suggest an MRI to diagnose the underlying cause.

A dog or cat's MRI usually lasts for about 45 minutes, during which the patient must remain completely still. To ensure the success of the MRI, your veterinarian will administer a general anesthetic to your pet before the scan. It's usually recommended that blood tests and X-rays are conducted beforehand to confirm your pet's suitability for general anesthesia.

Diagnostic Imaging For Your Dog or Cat at Ferguson Animal Hospital

Our board-certified specialists and emergency vets, available throughout North Providence, are happy to offer in-house veterinary diagnostics such as CT scans and ultrasounds. With the help of these diagnostic tools, we can provide you or your primary care vet with an accurate diagnosis of your pet's medical issues. Do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about our veterinary care and diagnostic imaging services available at Ferguson Animal Hospital

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

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Ferguson Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of North Providence companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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