CT scanner room

Computed Tomography (CT Scan)

When it comes to delivering the best possible care to your pet, you will need some help from others–including your veterinarian. Like you, your veterinarian’s top concern is to help you establish and maintain your pet’s good health, and they will use a variety of diagnostic tools in order to accomplish this. Unfortunately, while physical examinations can yield a lot of valuable information, they cannot tell the veterinarian everything they need to know about your pet’s health.

When your veterinarian needs more information about your pet’s health than can be determined from a physical examination, they will likely turn to medical imaging. This does not mean that they will recommend medical imaging regularly, or whenever they are performing a physical examination, but rather that they will turn to this valuable diagnostic tool when there are indicators that something may be amiss with your pet’s health and they cannot easily determine what it is or why it is. The most common type of medical imaging is x-rays, which provide a simple and efficient way for your veterinarian to see inside your pet’s body. However, while x-rays can be useful in many situations, they are not as thorough and detailed as is sometimes required. This is where CT scans come in.

The Value of CT Scans

CT scans, or computed tomography scans, are used for both humans and pets. In fact, the equipment used to deliver CT scans to humans and pets is largely the same, though pets need to be anesthetized for the procedure so that they remain perfectly still and proper images can be obtained.

CT scans provide veterinarians with a closer look at a pet’s organs, muscles, bones or other internal body parts than is available through x-rays. This is because these scans provide image “slices” of internal body parts that can then be reconstructed to provide a three-dimensional model of that body part. Needless to say, the detail that is provided through such scanning is invaluable in diagnosing a variety of physical conditions, and anomalies, and in planning for surgery. This can help to reduce or eliminate the need for exploratory surgery, which can be dangerous in certain situations. For example, pets with tumors need to have those tumors excised wherever possible. A CT scan can help the veterinary surgeon understand the precise size and location of the tumor, as well as its relationship with other internal body parts, so they can plan exactly how to approach and excise the tumor safely.

CT scans are very commonly used in order to evaluate nasal diseases in dogs and cats, as well as orthopedic abnormalities, tooth decay issues and multiple organ injury as can occur in an accident. CT scans can also be used to determine the health of a pet’s lungs, especially if they have a cancer situation and the veterinarian wants to determine whether there is any metastasis occurring. This helps the veterinarian understand the pet’s cancer situation and what treatment will be most appropriate for them.

In cases where pets are experiencing neurological issues, such as brain and spinal cord issues and diseases, your veterinarian is more likely to recommend an MRI than a CT scan.

What to Expect

Your veterinarian will ask you to refrain from feeding your pet for the 12 hours immediately prior to receiving a CT scan. Once they arrive at the facility, they will have blood drawn and preliminary blood work done as part of the prep for anesthetization. The pet is gently anesthetized to ensure their comfort and safety throughout the scan, and also to ensure a more accurate scan–since the patient needs to remain perfectly still throughout the entire process.

A series of scans are taken as part of a complete CT scan, each one lasting for about thirty seconds. The anesthesiologist steps into the room to check on the animal between each scan, monitoring their vital signs and ensuring their comfort and safety.

The entire CT scan process, from initial anesthetization to waking up, takes roughly forty-five minutes. In most cases, the CT scan report is available to the veterinarian within a few hours of the scan’s completion. The veterinarian can then review the results and determine the best treatment plan, prior to discussing them with you.

Final Thoughts

CT scans are a valuable diagnostic tool, and are perfectly safe for your pet. If you have any additional questions about this procedure, please contact us today.