When your pet is not feeling well or injured, we may use diagnostic imaging tools to “see” what’s going on within your pet’s body. With the advancement in technology, we have several tools available to us, and this month’s newsletter summarizes the use and advantages of X-Rays, Ultrasounds, MRIs and CT Scans. All are excellent tools and they offer the ability to help diagnose issues and minimize the use of exploratory surgery.

Historically, the X-Ray was the first technology that enabled doctors and veterinarians to see internal organs, bone, and other structures of the body. Initially using photographic film plates to capture an image of your pet’s body, modern digital radiology has enhanced the safety, speed, image quality, and effectiveness of using this diagnostic tool. X-Rays are the “go-to” tool — in terms of accessibility, speed and cost — for most diagnostic needs when an internal view of your pet is required.

Today’s digital X-Ray still pass particles through your pet’s body which are then detected on an electronic plate on the other side of your pet, but the beam can be well focused using lower energy (or dose) — increasing the safety of this diagnostic tool.

Pet X-Ray Image
During this test, your pet must be properly positioned to capture the image of the desired area — and remain still (sometimes anesthetized) until the test is initiated. Lasting only a fraction of a second, the captured image is electronically processed and made available for viewing on a monitor. The result is essentially a black and white image with countless shades of grey based upon the density of the structures within your pet’s body. X-Rays are excellent at displaying bones, organs, tissue, bladder stones and most tumors. They are essential when evaluating the impact of significant trauma — such as a pet that is hit by an automobile.

Abdominal X-Rays allow us to see intestinal obstructions such as foreign objects within the stomach or abdomen, bladder stones, and the shapes and outlines of organs. Chest X-Rays can help diagnose heart or lung disease and the disposition/growth of some cancers. And X-Rays can help diagnose orthopedic issues including fractures, bone deformations, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and other disorders.

Rather than using high energy particles like the X-Ray, ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to create an image of your pet’s body. Unlike the X-Ray which provides a snapshot image, an ultrasound provides a dynamic, live video feed based upon the location of the handheld transducer (or wand/probe). An ultrasound is an excellent diagnostic tool as it captures movement of internal organs as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.

Unlike the X-Ray which can operate through your pet’s coat, an ultrasound requires the removal (or shaving) of your pet’s fur allowing a thin layer of gel to be applied to your pet’s skin to effectively transmit the soundwaves from the handheld probe into your pet’s body. The reflection of the sound waves (in terms of timing and amplitude) is used to generate the diagnostic video stream.

Pet Ultrasound Image
Ultrasounds are painless and do not require your pet to remain absolutely still. However, given sound waves will not penetrate air nor bone, ultrasounds are not ideal for lung, brain or spinal cord investigations. Ultrasounds are great for the investigation and diagnosis of cardiac issues. And given the immediate access to your pet’s skin, ultrasounds are ideal for abdominal diagnostic procedures — including reproductive examinations, digestive, and some circulatory and skeletal inquiries.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequencies and software to generate detailed images of internal body structures. MRIs are powerful tools, literally, to examine a portion or the entire body of your pet. MRIs work by allowing the magnetic force to align and synchronize the rotation of protons within your pet’s body which can then be “read” by radio waves and converted into a digital image.

Pet MRI Image
MRIs can be helpful in diagnosing neurological issues, brain diseases (tumors, abscesses, etc.) and spinal disorders (herniated discs, etc.). They can also help us understand tissue damage, tumors, joints, cartilage, bone and virtually all forms of soft tissue without the use of X-Rays.

To keep your pet still while within the MRI device, your pet will require general anesthesia. However, your pet can retain their coat.

CT Scan
Computed Tomography Scans (CT Scan) combine a precisely controlled series of X-Ray images taken from multiple small intervals and angles — and then electronically “stitched” together to form an exceptionally detailed view of your pet’s body. CT Scans are superior to individual X-Rays as they provide detailed views of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels. CT Scans are ideal for pinpointing the exact location of ailments, such as tumors, enabling precise treatment and the creation of a surgical plan.

Pet CT Scan Image
Like MRIs, CT Scans require that your pet be completely still throughout the process — requiring anesthesia but retaining your pet’s coat.

Contact Us
If you have any questions about how we select and use these diagnostic tools, please contact us. We would be delighted to share additional information. We are always here to help you and your pet.