Your pet's health can be impacted by a number of different types of accidents and illnesses. Here, our East Setauket vets talk about X-rays and CT scans for cats and dogs at our veterinary laboratory and what diagnostic imaging can help us discover about your pet's health.

Routine Diagnostic Imaging for Dogs & Cats

Diagnostic imaging tools such as CT scans and X-rays for dogs and cats are used to help the vet gain valuable insight into the internal functions and state of their health.

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 can X-rays and CT scans show us about your pet's health?

Diagnostic imaging like X-rays and CT scans are vital to help meet the medical needs of pets.

X-rays allow veterinarians to see your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs, allowing them to diagnose problems such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowing foreign objects, and more. These can assist veterinarians in detecting tumors, pregnancy and enlarged organs, which may lead to a diagnosis of heart disease or cancer. However, X-ray technology cannot provide a detailed view of organs, tissues, and ligaments.

The CT machine's high-resolution images allow us to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail, which we would not be able to see with standard X-rays. CT scanners provide excellent detail of the body's bony and soft tissue structures.

Other diagnostic tools that are used on pets include veterinary ultrasounds. Our East Setauket animal hospital uses ultrasounds to get a better view of the internal structures of your pet. This is most commonly used for diagnosing tumors and pregnancy.

What happens during veterinary diagnostic imaging?

While both CT scans and X-rays are a type of diagnostic imaging, and both provide us with a look at your pet's internal systems, they are quite different.

X-rays for Pets

X-rays are performed using a low dose of radiation to create an image detailing the internal structures of your dog or cat.

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.

You can also rest easy knowing that X-rays are safe for dogs and cats of all ages and in all conditions. The level of radiation is so low that it can even be used on pets that are pregnant.

CT Scans for Pets

CT scans, or CAT scans, for cats and dogs, are useful when assessing the nasal passage, sinuses, lungs, thorax, ears, abdomen, and some orthopedic areas.

Your vet might recommend a CT scan if your pet has any condition ranging from 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).

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. These scans can be performed quite quickly.

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.

Will I need to prepare my cat or dog for an X-ray?

Usually, when you bring your cat or dog for an X-ray at our lab in East Setauket, you typically won't need to prepare. This is because X-rays are most commonly done when your dog or cat has been brought to our clinic for other reasons.

In the event that your pet has an X-ray or CT scan that was booked ahead of time for your pet, your vet will provide all the instructions you will need for the day of the procedure.

Is sedation needed to perform veterinary diagnostic imaging?

Sedation is sometimes necessary to obtain a clear X-ray. Sedation will not be required if your dog or cat is calm, not in too much pain, and able to lie in a comfortable position while the X-ray or CT scan is being performed.

Sedation, on the other hand, will be recommended if your dog or cat is squirmy, agitated, or in pain. Sedation may also be used during your pet's X-ray or scan if the dog's or cat's muscles need to be relaxed to obtain a clear image, or if the X-ray is being used on the skull, teeth, or spine.

A CT scan is a completely risk-free procedure. CT scans, like X-rays, use ionizing radiation, but at low doses that are not harmful to pets.

Are X-rays and CT scans safe for cats or dogs?

While X-rays and CT scanners are generally considered safe for dogs and cats, radiation is involved. As a result, X-rays and CT scans are typically used as diagnostic tools only on occasion. In some cases, veterinarians will use X-ray technology to determine a dog's pregnancy. However, other types of imaging, such as ultrasounds, could be used in that situation.

Speak with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the use of X-ray or CT scanner technology and the health of your dog or cat. They will be able to explain the risks versus the benefits in your dog's and cat's specific case.

What is the cost of X-rays and CT scans for dogs and cats?

The cost of your dog or cat's X-rays or CT scans will be determined by a variety of factors, including the size of your pet, whether sedation was used, the type of clinic, where your veterinary clinic is located, and more. If you are concerned about the cost of your pet imaging appointment, consult with your veterinarian first.

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 dog or cat showing concerning signs or symptoms? Contact our vets to schedule an exam and diagnostics at our animal laboratory in East Setauket.