Diagnostic testing for pets can help your vet determine illnesses and injuries in your dog or cat. Our Santa Barbara vets are here to discuss the types of tests and what they can tell your vet.
X-Rays for Dogs & Cats
X-rays are one of the most useful, and commonly used tools in veterinary healthcare. X-rays can help your vets achieve a clear view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs so that they can diagnose problems from broken bones and bladder stones to swallowed 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 will not provide a detailed view of your pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments using x-ray technology. 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 is so low, vets can perform X-rays on pregnant pets. Sedation is sometimes required in order 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. That said, if your pet is unsettled, anxious, or in pain, sedation may be necessary.
Ultrasound for Pets
Our beloved cats and dogs often get into things they shouldn’t or develop health issues such as cysts or tumors that require treatment. 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 their ultrasound. You may be required to withhold food and water for between 8 and 12 hours, particularly for abdominal ultrasounds. We can best examine the urinary bladder when it is full of urine. This is why your cat or dog should not urinate for about 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound, if possible.
The area to be examined will likely be shaved so clear images can be produced. While most pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated.
PET/CT Scan for Pets
Computed Tomography for Dogs & Cats
The high-resolution images produced by the CT machine help your veterinary team to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail - detail that 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 the chest/lungs. We can also use the CT machine to assess lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.
Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans for Dogs & Cats
A CT scan combined with the use of a contrast agent given to your pet intravenously (IV), allows vets to see increased areas of blood flow in the animal's body. PET scans aid in the detection of cancer and areas of inflammation. In humans, PET scans are used to give doctors a detailed view of how the patient's tissues and organs are working. PET scans are most commonly used to detect and monitor cancer.
The Process for CT & PET Scans
CT and PET scans require your pet to be completely motionless. 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 process. In most cases, these tests only take a short amount of time. Once the scan is over the images will often need to 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 for Dogs & Cats
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been readily available to help diagnose human health concerns since the early 1980s, but this diagnostic test had not made it into the veterinary field until much more recently.
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 limping, or having seizures, joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, an MRI might be used to help diagnose the cause of your pet's symptoms.
Dog and cat MRIs take between 45 minutes to an hour to be performed. For the images captured by the MRI to be useful, your pet needs to be completely still. To ensure this, a general anesthetic will be administered to your dog or cat prior to their scan MRI scan. Vets typically recommend blood tests and X-rays be done prior to the MRI to help ensure that your pet is strong enough to be put under general anesthetic.
Diagnostic Imaging at San Roque Pet Hospital
Our Santa Barbara vets are pleased to provide advanced veterinary diagnostics including endoscopy and ultrasound. These diagnostic tools to allow us to provide you (or your primary care vet) with an accurate diagnosis of your pets’ medical issues. Contact us to learn more about veterinary care and diagnostic imaging at San Roque Pet 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.