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Diagnostic Imaging for Your Dog or Cat

Diagnostic imaging is used by our vets to help detect the cause, extent, or seriousness of your pet's illness or injury. In this post, our San Diego vets discuss the benefits of diagnostic imaging for cats and dogs.

Diagnostic Imaging for Pets

Veterinary medicine has made vast improvements with the introduction of diagnostic imaging technology. 

Our San Diego  vets are pleased to provide advanced veterinary diagnostics including X-rays and ultrasound. These diagnostic tools allow us to provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your pets’ medical issues.

Below we will list some of the forms of diagnostic imaging that are used on cats and dogs as well as what they are used for and how the procedure is performed.

Radiography - X-Rays for Dogs & Cats

X-rays are one of the most helpful, and frequently used tools in veterinary healthcare. X-rays can help your vet to get a view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs so that they can diagnose problems such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowing foreign objects, and more. X-ray images can help vets to spot some tumors, pregnancy, and enlarged organs which may lead to a diagnosis such as heart disease or cancer.

X-rays do not provide a detailed view of your pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments. 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 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. If your pet is unsettled, anxious, or in pain, sedation may be necessary.

Ultrasound Imaging for Pets

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 help our vets examine the structure of your pet’s organs so we can discover and identify blockages, tumors, or other problems.

Ultrasounds on different parts of your pet's body require different preparations. Speak to your vet to find out how to prepare your pet for its ultrasound. You may be required to withhold food and water for between 8 and 12 hours, particularly for abdominal ultrasounds. The urinary bladder can best be examined when it is full of urine.

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

CT Scan for Pets

The high-resolution images produced by the CT (Computed Tomography) machine help your veterinary team to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail which would be impossible to achieve with standard X-rays.

CT scanners provide your vet with an outstanding image of your dog or cat's bony and soft tissue structures. CT technology is most commonly used to generate images of the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs. The CT machine can also be used to assess lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.

CT scans 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 process. In most cases, a CT 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.

MRIs for pets take between 45 minutes to an hour to perform. For an MRI to be successful the patient needs to remain still. To ensure that your pet's MRI is successful, a general anesthetic will be administered to your dog or cat before 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Is your pet in need of a diagnosis? Contact our San Diego vets today to book an appointment for your pet.

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Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Diego companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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