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Diagnostic Imaging: CT Scans and X-rays for Dogs and Cats

Diagnostic Imaging: CT Scans and X-rays for Dogs and Cats

The technology that we use in our veterinary clinic is vital to the ongoing care and treatment of animals. Here, our Novato vets share some information about CT scans and X-rays for dogs and cats and answer some common questions about diagnostic imaging for pets.

How Diagnostic Imaging Helps With Pet Care

Diagnostic imaging tools such as X-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans help your vet to gain an in-depth view of the internal functions of your pet.

Electromagnetic radiation and other technologies are used in routine diagnostic imaging procedures for dogs and cats. They capture extremely detailed images of your pet's bones, soft tissues and other internal structures so your vet can offer an accurate diagnosis and plan effective treatments. 

What do we learn with X-rays and CAT scans for cats and dogs?

While either one can be used to gain a better understanding of your pet's health, X-rays and CT scans are performed differently:

X-rays (Otherwise Known as Digital X-rays or Radiography)

With a digital X-ray (radiograph) for cats or dogs, we use very low doses of radiation to show us the internal structures that we would otherwise be unable to see.

This procedure is used to evaluate organs and bones and to diagnose conditions such as spinal cord diseases, arthritis, broken bones, bladder stones and some tumors.

To help put your mind at ease, we would like to mention that these low levels of radiation are perfectly safe for your pet. The level of radiation is so low that it can even be used on pets that are pregnant.

CT Scans (Also Called CAT scans)

Often referred to as a CAT scan or CT scan, computed tomography is useful when assessing the nasal passage, sinuses, lungs, thorax, ears, abdomen and some orthopedic areas.

If your cat or dog suffers from conditions such as lung disease to pulmonary fibrosis, metastatic cancer (before surgery), tumors or masses in the chest cavity, disease in the nasal cavity, trauma to the spine or pelvis, vascular anomalies or orthopedic developmental disease (elbow dysplasia), your vet may use CT scans.

When CT scans are used for diagnosing imaging, your vet can gain a more distinguished view of the bones and soft tissues. For the scan itself, your pet will be placed on a table that will slowly enter the machine and a full image will be produced. One of the benefits is that these scans don't take very long to perform.

For these types of scans, an X-ray tube rotates around the patient to record images from several angles (the suspected health issue will determine the number of images captured) to create slices. The slices are then stacked together to produce a 3D image of your pet without superimposition of other tissues or organs.

Is sedation needed for routine diagnostic imaging for dogs or cats?

There are a few different factors that your vet will take into consideration when deciding whether or not to sedate your pet for their diagnostic imaging appointment. The vet may still recommend using anesthesia when taking images of certain parts of your pet's skeleton.

When having a CT scan, your dog or cat will need to lie absolutely still for the entire duration. Because your pet will be heavily sedated, they will have their vitals monitored the entire time.

If biopsies need to be done before an ultrasound, your pet will require a heavy sedative or short-acting anesthetic to help them relax while the vet performs the procedure and to avoid potential complications. Your vet will notify you if this is required.

What happens after X-rays or CT scans for cats and dogs?

Our veterinarians will review results from digital X-rays and ultrasounds in-house and will come up with a treatment plan suited to your pet's needs and conditions. 

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.

Would you like to learn more about what to expect during your pet's diagnostic imaging appointment? Contact Bel Marin Animal Hospital today to schedule a consultation.

New Patients Welcome

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

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