In trying to provide your pet with the absolute best care possible, your veterinarian has to cope with some challenging situations. Most notable is your pet’s inability to communicate. If you feel sick or injured, you can take the time to describe your discomforts and symptoms to your physician. Even then, in order to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the right treatment plan, your physician may need to take x-rays to get a closer look at what’s going on.

Your pet cannot tell you, or the veterinarian, what is going on or how they feel, and so x-rays become even more critical. That said, we understand that x-rays can be an unexpected expense, and so we’d like to take a moment to better describe exactly what veterinary x-rays are and how veterinary x-rays can help to restore or protect the health of your pet.

The Basics of Veterinary X-Rays

In some cases, a pet’s physical ailments can be diagnosed through physical examination or blood work. However, there are also some physical ailments that have no real external symptoms, and therefore require medical imaging. As is the case with human medical imaging, veterinary medical imaging allow for photos to be taken of the inside of the body. Medical professionals are then able to evaluate these images in order to diagnose ailments so that proper treatment can be rendered.

The main types of veterinary medical imaging are:

  1. X-rays. X-rays, or radiographs, are the most common type of imaging that veterinarians tend to use on pets–especially when trying to diagnose conditions such as bone fractures, arthritis or pneumonia. They are simple, less expensive than other options, and extremely efficient. With an x-ray, the pet is exposed to a beam of x-rays and a picture is taken as these x-rays pass through the pet. The radiation exposure is minimal and harmless, and the benefits achieved through using x-rays for medical diagnosis far outweigh any potential harm.
  2. Ultrasounds. Ultrasounds, or sound wave imaging, are the second most common type of imaging that veterinarians tend to use–especially when trying to diagnose abdominal diseases (which cannot usually be detected through x-rays). With an ultrasound, a high-frequency sound beam is projected into the pet’s body. This sound beam is not detectable by either pets or humans, and is completely harmless.
  3. CT and MRI scans. CT scans, or cat scans, are especially useful when trying to view the head, chest and joints, which are complex areas not well laid-out on traditional x-ray images. CT scans are essentially a special type of x-ray that consist of a series of images. MRI scans, or magnetic resonance imaging, are especially useful when trying to determine whether there have been changes in body tissue due to inflammation or bleeding, such as occurs with strokes and herniated disks. With an MRI scan, magnetic field and radio waves are used in order to take pictures of the inside of the pet’s body.

Due to their various strengths, the different types of medical imaging are valuable in different sorts of situations. Your veterinarian will determine which type of imaging will be the most helpful, based upon your pet’s specific situation and condition. However, in most cases, x-rays will be sufficient to diagnose many of the most common illnesses and injuries that pets tend to experience.

Receiving X-Rays

It is not mandatory that pets be sedated in order to receive x-rays. However, pets that are in pain or are particularly nervous or fearful may feel more comfortable, and therefore be safer, if they are at least minimally sedated for the procedure. It is unlikely that they will need full anesthesia prior to receiving x-rays, especially since they don’t have to remain completely still throughout the procedure in order for quality images to be taken.

In many cases, veterinarians may use x-rays as a way to verify a diagnosis. For example, a physical examination and list of symptoms may indicate that a pet has fractured their leg, and an x-ray can confirm this diagnosis. However, there are also some cases where the veterinarian isn’t actually sure what may be going on, and x-rays are part of the many different types of diagnostic testing that can be used in order to determine what is occurring. Either way, the goal is to make an accurate diagnosis so that an effective treatment plan can be established and carried out.

For more information about x-rays and other types of veterinary medical imaging, contact us at 121 Animal Hospital.