Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

MRI vs. CT Scan vs. X-Ray: Understanding Your Pet's Diagnostic Imaging Options

MRI vs. CT Scan vs. X-Ray: Understanding Your Pet's Diagnostic Imaging Options

Diagnostic imaging capabilities allow your vet to efficiently produce accurate diagnostic information about your pet's condition and provide immediate treatment options. The imaging tool used will vary depending on the condition that is being diagnosed. Our Thousand Oaks vets talk about the various types of diagnostic imaging for your cat or dog such as CT scans, x-rays, and MRIs.

X-Rays or Radiography For Your Dog or Cat

The most commonly used form of diagnostic imaging in medicine is the X-ray or Radiography. X-rays allow for an internal view of your pet's bones, tissues, and internal organs so that they can diagnose problems such as broken bones, bladder stones, 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-ray technology is able to show an overall view of the dense internal workings of your pet but they will not provide a detailed view of your pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments. If a more detailed view is necessary for diagnosis then your vet will opt for other diagnostic imaging such as MRI and Ultrasound which will be much more beneficial in these cases.

X-rays are non-invasive, painless, and regarded quite safe for dogs and cats. X-rays, especially digital X-rays, use extremely low levels of radiation. Because the amount of radiation necessary for radiography is so low, even X-rays of pregnant dogs are safe. Sedation is sometimes necessary to obtain a clear image of your body. 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 is being taken. Some pets are unable to rest throughout the diagnostic process, and these pets may be sedated to keep them peaceful and to make things simpler for your veterinarian.

PET/CT Scans For Your Dog or Cat

Computed Tomography - CT Scans 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 far beyond the capabilities of the X-ray machine.

CT scanners provide your veterinarian with not just an exceptionally detailed look of your cat or dog's skeletal structure, but also of the soft tissues. CT imaging is most typically utilized to produce images of the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs. We can also utilize the CT equipment to examine lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.

Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans for Dogs & Cats

A CT scan paired with the administration of a contrast agent intravenously (IV) to your pet allows veterinarians to see enhanced areas of blood flow in the animal's body. PET scans help detect cancer and regions of inflammation. PET scans are utilized in people to provide clinicians with a precise picture of how the patient's tissues and organs are functioning. PET scans are most commonly used to diagnose certain types of cancer.

CT & PET Scan Process

The CT and PET scans have one thing in common: your pet must remain still throughout the process. As a result, general anesthesia is frequently used to put your pet to sleep while your veterinarian performs the imaging.Throughout the CT/PET procedure, your pet's vital signs are constantly monitored while he or she is sedated. In most circumstances, a CT/PET scan takes only a few minutes. When the scan is finished, the images are normally evaluated by a professional, and a thorough report with results and diagnostic recommendations is delivered to the veterinarian who is treating your pet.

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 wasn't until recently that it started to be looked at as a part of routine diagnostic imaging for cats and dogs.

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. 

An MRI for a dog or cat can take about 45 minutes from start to finish. For an MRI to be successful, the patient must be completely still. A general anesthesia will be delivered to your dog or cat before to the MRI scan to ensure the success of your pet's MRI.Blood tests and X-rays are often recommended prior to the MRI to check that your pet is healthy enough to be sedated.

Diagnostic Imaging For Your Dog or Cat at VSEC

Our Thousand Oaks board-certified specialists and emergency vets are pleased to provide advanced veterinary diagnostics including CT scans and ultrasound. These diagnostic tools allow us to provide you (or your primary care vet) with an accurate diagnosis of your pet's medical issues. Contact us to learn more about the advanced veterinary care and diagnostic imaging at VSEC.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes only. VSEC is unable to provide MRIs at this time.

If your cat or dog might require the use of diagnostic imaging for diagnosis, please contact our Thousand Oaks vets to schedule a visit.

New Patients Welcome

VSEC Thousand Oaks is accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions.

Contact (805) 492-2436