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Types of Diagnostic Tests for Pets

Types of Diagnostic Tests for Pets

If your pet is not feeling like themselves or a little under the weather you should bring them in for diagnostic testing in order to help them get on the path to feeling better. Here, our Citrus Heights vets speak about a number of different diagnostic tests that can be completed to diagnose your pet and get them back on track to optimal health.

What are X-rays (radiography) used for?

X-rays are an incredible tool when it comes to veterinary diagnostics and overall pet care. X-rays are able to help your vet gain an important view of the structures of your pet's body including the bones, tissues, and internal organs so that they can diagnose problems such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowing 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.

While useful for many of the internal structures, and X-ray will not show your vet the soft structures that make up your pet's body. If your vet needs to look at these areas they will likely request an ultrasound or MRI.

X-rays are painless, non-invasive, and considered very safe for dogs and cats. X-rays, particularly digital X-rays, use only very low doses of radiation. Because the level of radiation exposure required to perform radiography is very low, even X-rays of pregnant dogs are safe. Sedation is sometimes required in order to get a clear image of your body. If your dog or cat is calm, not in too much pain, and able to lay in a comfortable position while the X-ray is being taken, sedation will not be necessary. That said, if your pet is unsettled, anxious, or in pain, sedation may be necessary.

What is the purpose of ultrasounds for pets?

Cats and dogs are adventures that can lead to foreign objects being lodged in their body which may require the use of an ultrasound to help spot them. Many pets are prone to the development of cysts or tumors which can also be diagnosed using ultrasound technology. Ultrasounds are a form of imaging technology that transmits sound waves into your pet’s body to produce a 'picture' of a specific body part. Veterinary ultrasounds are non-invasive and can be used to diagnose or evaluate problems with your pet's internal organs or check on your pet's pregnancy.

An ultrasound can help our vets examine the structure of your pet’s organs so we can discover and identify blockages, tumors or other problems.

Depending on the location being viewed the preparation needed for your pet will differ. Your vet will be able to inform you of how they would like you to prepare your pet. You may be required to withhold food and water for between 8 and 12 hours, particularly for abdominal ultrasounds. We can best examine the urinary bladder when it is full of urine. This is why your cat or dog should not urinate for about 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound, if possible.

As it is likely that there will be fur covering the area needed for imaging your vet may need to shave the affected area of your pet. While most pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated.

What are PET/CT scans for pets used for?

Computed Tomography - CT Scans for Dogs & Cats

CT machines are able to produce high-resolution images of your pet's body which allows your vet to view the structures in greater detail than what is possible with other technologies.

CT scanners provide your vet with an outstanding image of your dog or cat's bony and soft tissue structures. CT technology is most commonly used to generate images of the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs. We can also use the CT machine to assess lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.

Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans for Dogs & Cats

A CT scan combined with the use of a contrast agent given to your pet intravenously (IV), allows vets to see increased areas of blood flow in the animal's body. PET scans aid in the detection of cancer and areas of inflammation. PET scans can be used to show the real-time function of the body and is also a reliable method of detecting cancer.

What should you expect during the PET/CT scan procedure?

Anesthesia will need to be used for both CT scans and PET scans in order to keep your pet completely still. Your vet will be monitoring your dog or cat very closely throughout the process. In most cases, a CT/PET scan only takes a short time. Once the scan is complete the images will typically be interpreted by a specialist and a detailed report with findings and diagnostic recommendations will be sent to the vet handling your pet's treatment.

How are MRIs (Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Imaging) useful for pet diagnostics?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been readily available to help diagnose human health concerns since the early 1980s, but it is only recently that veterinary MRIs have become more widely used.

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. 

Dog and cat MRIs take between 45 minutes to an hour to perform. For an MRI to be successful the patient needs to remain absolutely still. In order to ensure that your pet's MRI is successful, a general anesthetic will be administered to your dog or cat prior to their scan MRI scan. Vets typically recommend blood tests and X-rays be done before the MRI to help ensure that your pet is strong enough to be put under general anesthetic.

The Diagnostic Services Available at Family Friends Veterinary Hospital

Our Citrus Heights board-certified specialists and emergency vets are pleased to provide advanced veterinary diagnostics including EKG, ultrasound and radiographs. These diagnostic tools allow us to provide you (or your primary care vet) with an accurate diagnosis of your pets’ medical issues. Contact us to learn more about advanced veterinary care and diagnostic imaging at Family Friends Veterinary Hospital.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have you noticed that your pet has been behaving differently than usual or just generally showing symptoms of feeling unwell? Contact our Citrus Heights vets to schedule an appointment today.

New Patients Always Welcome

Family Friends Veterinary Hospital is happy to accept new patients! Our vets are passionate about improving the health of Citrus Heights companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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