Dog Diagnostic Imaging
What Is Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging?
Veterinary diagnostic imaging includes radiographs (X-rays), ultrasound, MRIs, and CT scans, all of which are used as diagnostic tools to collect information about your dog’s health. The vast majority of imaging is non-invasive and completely painless. However, some imaging may require sedation or even anesthesia because the dog must be kept still to allow for adequate images to be produced. Veterinarians use these images to collect information on your dog to help them make a medical and sometimes surgical plan.
When Is Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging Necessary?
After your veterinarian has examined your dog, he or she may want to begin to collect more information that will lead to a diagnosis and then a treatment plan. X-rays are usually the first line of imaging. The X-ray may lead to a diagnosis that allows them to move forward with a plan. However, sometimes the next step may be an ultrasound to get a more thorough or specific look at a particular area of the body.
For instance, if your dog is vomiting and feeling ill, your veterinarian may take an X-ray to look for possible causes, such as obstruction of the intestines or an obvious foreign body. While the x-ray may show some signs of intestinal obstruction before proceeding to surgery, it may be prudent in some cases to follow with an abdominal ultrasound. The ultrasound will provide more detail about the questionable area and therefore allow more confidence in the treatment plan to move forward with surgery. Occasionally, X-rays and ultrasounds allow for a definitive diagnosis, but other times they will add more information to help put the puzzle together for the best treatment plan for your dog.
The four types of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging our veterinarians may utilize to assist in the diagnosis of your dog’s condition are:
- CT scans
More information on each of these types of radiographs is provided below.
Dog X-rays have been in use throughout the medical community for many decades. Dog X-rays are by far the most regularly used form of diagnostic imaging in the veterinary industry because they are cost-effective (comparatively speaking). They can accurately diagnose the state of skeletal structure and composition, large body cavities, and the presence of many foreign objects. Dog X-rays are totally painless, but some dogs can benefit from sedation to reduce anxiety and stress.
Dog x-rays usually proceed as follows:
- The dog is placed on the X-ray table
- A technician positions the X-ray machine so that the x-ray beam targets only the area of interest.
- Modern X-ray equipment allows for low levels of radiation and, when used only occasionally, is perfectly safe for your dog.
- Because dog x-rays are static images, the procedure usually requires less time than a procedure like an MRI.
Dog X-rays have traditionally been captured on actual film and still can be when necessary. However, our x-ray images are now digital, which allows us to capture the images on a secure server that our veterinarians can access at any time and can also share with specialists, if necessary.
A dog ultrasound is the second most common type of diagnostic imaging tool veterinarians use to diagnose a dog’s medical condition. Ultrasounds use soundwaves to examine and photograph internal tissues in real-time. An ultrasound allows a veterinarian to see into a dog’s body in real-time, allowing for easy viewing of organs from different angles that are not easily achieved through X-rays. The functioning of various organs and blood flow can be observed to determine if they are malfunctioning.
A dog ultrasound procedure usually proceeds as follows:
- A dog ultrasound technician gently presses a small probe against the dog’s body that emits digital sound waves
- The sound waves are directed to various parts of the dog’s abdominal area by manually shifting the probe’s position
- The sound beam changes velocity while passing through varying body tissue density, which causes echoes
- Our ultrasound equipment converts these echoes into electrical impulses that are then further transformed into a digital image that represents the appearance of the tissues
- These images can be viewed in real-time by a veterinarian, as well as stored for further review at any time
In modern scanning systems like the ones Vida Veterinary Care has on-site and uses on our canine patients, the sound beam sweeps through the body many times per second. This produces a dynamic, real-time image that changes as the dog ultrasound device moves across the dog’s body. We can use the results of an ultrasound to determine what is ailing your dog and to devise the most effective treatment protocol.
Common symptoms that may cause a veterinarian to use ultrasound include vomiting, weight loss, kidney impairment or blockage, and heart disease.
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is the newest form of diagnostic imaging being used for both human and veterinary medicine. Dog MRI equipment generates a very powerful magnetic field, resulting in detailed anatomic images of whatever part of a dog’s body is being scanned. No X-rays are involved, and a dog MRI is considered extremely safe.
A dog MRI procedure usually proceeds as follows:
- Dogs must be sedated for this procedure because they cannot be restrained by humans and must remain still during the procedure.
- For the procedure, a dog is placed in a tubular electromagnetic chamber.
- The dog’s body is continuously pulsed with radio waves for a period of time, usually 10-20 minutes.
- The pulsing causes the dog’s body tissues to emit radiofrequency waves that can be detected by the MRI equipment. Many repetitions of these pulses and subsequent emissions are required in order to generate adequate digital feedback for the equipment to interpret.
- The feedback is then converted into images that can be displayed on a screen and can also be saved for future study.
A dog MRI is not used as regularly as an X-ray or ultrasound because the equipment is very expensive, very large, and requires specially trained technicians to operate. However, Vida Veterinary Care offers comprehensive dog MRI services because we believe that facilitating complete canine care means having all the tools and training necessary to do so.
CT Scans For Dogs
CT scans for dogs, also known as “cat scans,” are computer-enhanced dog X-ray procedures most often used to evaluate complex parts of the body, such as the head, chest, some joints, and various internal organs. CT scans show different levels of tissue density and produce more detailed images than X-rays. Unlike MRIs, CT scans for dogs do not use magnetic field waves, so they cannot compare changes in fluid levels due to inflammation or bleeding. Therefore, CT scans for dogs are used in situations where an MRI is considered unnecessary, but a traditional X-ray is inconclusive or insufficient.
CT scans for dogs usually proceed as follows:
- Dogs must be sedated for this procedure because they cannot be restrained by humans and must remain still during the procedure.
- The dog is placed on a motorized bed inside of a CT scanner, a machine that takes a series of X-rays from various angles.*
- When one series, or scan, is completed, the bed moves forward, and another scan is taken.
- A computer uses these scans to create cross-sectional images of the body part under investigation and then display the images on a monitor (An X-ray dye may be injected intravenously to make it easier to see abnormalities).
- By sequentially scanning an entire body area, an organ or other structure can be imaged without invasively penetrating the body or disrupting neighboring structures.
CT scans for dogs are most often used by our veterinarians to detect structural changes deep within a dog’s body, including:
- Deep abscesses or foreign body presence
Just like MRI equipment, CT scan equipment is very expensive, large, and requires trained technicians to operate. However, it is our mission to make sure all diagnostic imaging tools are available for your beloved canine companion to benefit from, so we provide CT scans for dogs at our veterinary hospital.
How Canine Radiographs Influence Veterinary Recommendations
The goal of canine radiographs is to ascertain a diagnosis or obtain a final answer without having to perform further more invasive tests or procedures. For example, an X-ray might show some soft tissue swelling in the knee, but the addition of an MRI would reveal the specific tendon or ligament tear that is causing a dog to limp and allow for a more specific treatment plan, diagnosis, and prognosis.
Veterinary diagnostic imaging offers an array of incredibly useful tools that are a part of a veterinarian’s toolkit. Sometimes a diagnostic imaging session can lead to the need for further diagnostics. This is why it is important to understand that diagnostic imaging may lead to a progressive fact-finding mission that must occur in order to diagnose your dog’s ailment.
If you are concerned that your dog might be injured or experiencing internal problems, or if you would like to discuss how canine radiographs can benefit them, please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians today.
Early detection is key when it comes to treating your pet, and VIDA Veterinary Care – Denver & VIDA Veterinary Care – Centennial offers complete in-house diagnostics including cutting-edge equipment and an on-site laboratory. This saves time, money, and most importantly, you don’t have to wait overnight for results—meaning your pet gets a diagnosis and needed treatment sooner.
has the capability to perform various blood screens, pre-anesthetic bloodwork, urinalysis and other types of testing on-site instead of sending samples to an outside lab.
Testing provided in the hospital includes:
- Liver enzyme screening
- Pancreatic evaluation
- Renal (Kidney) profiles
- Complete blood counts
- General chemistries
- Blood gases
- FelV, FIV in cats
- Parvovirus in dogs
While we do offer an extensive range of on-site testing, it is possible that your pet may need laboratory work beyond our scope. For those cases, we are happy to send blood work or other testing to an outside lab that will send results back to us.
Digital Radiology (X-Rays)
VIDA Veterinary Care employs advanced imaging technologies operated by board-certified veterinary radiologists, guaranteeing the highest quality of care for our patients.
Radiographs, or x-rays, use electromagnetic radiation directed towards the body to highlight objects within. They can detect abnormalities including skeletal fractures, soft tissue damage, foreign bodies and dental disease.
Orthopedic radiographs and contrast studies require the patient remain completely still to work correctly, necessitating sedation in most cases. Some specialized procedures may require anesthesia. The duration of sedation or anesthesia is usually short and patient recovery is swift. A board-certified anesthesiologist oversees all procedures.
Ultrasound is a powerful diagnostic tool that creates a real-time image of an animal’s body. This composite reveals important information about internal processes including the circulatory, skeletal and gastrointestinal systems.
When used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools like x-rays ultrasounds can help identify disease, blockages, skeletal fractures, soft tissue damage and other internal injuries.
An ultrasound works by broadcasting high-frequency sound waves that reflect off your pet’s internal structures. A small probe held against the skin collects the returning signals to create an image of the internal body, most commonly used to examine abdominal organs like the stomach, kidneys, liver, spleen and gallbladder. An ultrasound of the heart, known as an echocardiogram, provides precise information about heart valves, blood flow, chamber size and contractions.
Completely painless and non-invasive, ultrasounds usually require some sedation because the patient must remain completely still. VIDA Veterinary Care – Denver & VIDA Veterinary Care – Centennial employs advanced imaging technologies operated by board-certified veterinary radiologists, guaranteeing the highest quality of care for our patients.
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