Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Diagnostic Imaging: X-rays & CT Scans for Dogs & Cats

Routine diagnostic imaging is a vital part of health care for your pet. It can help us determine what is worn or allow us to recognize what is considered normal for your pet. Here, our Los Angeles vets talk about X-rays and CT scans for your dog and cat, what to expect, why they are needed and how safe it is.

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.

Why are CT scans and X-rays needed?

Routine diagnostic imaging for dogs and cats is an important part of their healthcare. Both for diagnosing issues and monitoring healing and overall health.

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.

How are X-rays and CT scans for dogs and cats performed?

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 Dogs & Cats

X-rays (radiographs) are performed using low-dose radiation to create images that display the internal structures of your pet.

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.

The target area of your pet will be scanned using a machine that emits X-ray beams that either get absorbed into the bones, partially absorbed by the soft tissues and go straight into the imaging device or film placed behind your pet. This creates the image that we see with the bones showing up white from absorbing the X-rays and the soft tissues appearing grey from absorbing some of the X-rays. All other areas appear black.

CT Scans for Cats & Dogs

CT scans, otherwise known as 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).

CT scans offer a more in-depth view of your pet's 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 in only a short amount of time.

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.

How can I prepare my cat or dog for X-rays or CT scans?

Often, an X-ray and CT scan are done when the animal is brought in to have an issue looked at by the vet. For that reason, no preparation is required.

If you have 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.

Do cats and dogs need to be sedated for 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.

Much like X-rays, CT scans use low doses of radiation that are considered safe for pets.

Is routine diagnostic imaging safe for dogs and cats?

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.

Your vet will explain any potential risks with you before your pet's appointment. If you have any further questions they will be able to provide you with additional guidance.

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

Several factors affect the overall cost of your dog or cat's diagnostic imaging appointment. This includes the size of your pet, the area being viewed, 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 or would like an estimate, consult with your veterinarian.

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 scheduled for routine diagnostic imaging at Mohawk Alley Animal Hospital? Please contact our Los Angeles vets if you have any questions about their upcoming visit.

Looking for a vet in Los Angeles?

Our veterinarians are passionate about caring for Los Angeles companion animals. Get in touch today to request an appointment for your pet. 

Contact Us

Book Online (213) 201-7900