Your dog has an X-ray (radiograph) coming up. You may be wondering about the process during the appointment and how you can prepare. In this post, our Los Angeles vets explain what you can expect when you take your dog for an X-ray. 

How do X-rays work? 

An X-ray is a type of electromagnetic energy that is transmitted in waves by photons. An X-ray beam emits energy that is absorbed by your dog's mineralized tissues or hard materials, such as teeth or bones. Some X-rays are absorbed by soft tissues such as the kidneys and liver, while no X-rays are absorbed by air. All X-rays are completely absorbed by lead.

Your dog may need to be repositioned in order to view and capture all of the necessary angles. Taking X-rays usually takes about 10 minutes. The digital X-ray images are immediately available for review by your veterinarian.

This helpful tool is most useful for looking at solid tissues, and seeing areas of the body with contrasting tissue densities. 

What can vets diagnose with X-rays?

Vets frequently use X-rays to examine your pet’s bones, internal organs and tissues so they can diagnose issues such as fractures in bones, foreign objects your pet may have swallowed, bladder stones and more.

X-rays can help your veterinarian capture two-dimensional images and detect pregnancy, enlarged organs, and some tumors. An X-ray clearly shows the silhouette of a heart, as well as large blood vessels and fluid in the lungs. Many organs in the abdomen can be examined, and any air trapped in the intestines can be detected.

X-rays are also frequently used by veterinarians to examine bones in limbs and the spine. However, due to the density of soft tissues in ligaments and tendons, joints may be more difficult to observe. If X-rays of these areas are taken, your veterinarian will most likely be looking for abnormal swelling in a joint, cavities, or abnormal orientation or positioning of bones.

The examination may lead to a diagnosis such as cancer or heart disease.

X-ray technology is valuable in many circumstances. However, it cannot help us obtain a detailed view of tissues, ligaments and organs. It may also be more difficult to distinguish between organs if your pet has either very little body fat or is extremely obese.

The inside of the skull cannot be properly observed with an X-ray since the bones in the cranium absorb all X-rays, preventing us from seeing the brain tissue.

We may need other diagnostic imaging tools such as computed tomography (CT scans) to detect structural abnormalities deep within the body, such as abscesses, some tumors, hematomas, occult fractures and vascular changes.

Ultrasound is more appropriate for diagnosing conditions such as kidney stones, pancreatitis, and abdominal pain or enlarged abdominal organs. We can also use this tool to perform needle biopsies when we need to extract a cell sample from organs to be tested in the lab.

How can I prepare my dog for their X-ray appointment?

When you bring your pet to the vet, he or she will often perform an X-ray to get a better look at the problem. As a result, no prior planning is required. They will, however, spend a few minutes explaining the procedure and what they are looking for.

Will my dog be sedated during the X-ray?

Positioning is essential for obtaining a clear X-ray. Animals must occasionally be sedated to keep them still and obedient. Sedation won't be required if your dog is at ease, not in too much discomfort, and capable of lying down comfortably while the doctor takes the picture.

In contrast, the vet will advise sedation if your dog exhibits nervous behavior, squirms, or displays signs of pain. If the dog's muscles need to be relaxed in order to get the clearest image possible or if the X-ray needs to take images of the dog's spine, skull, or teeth, sedation may also be necessary.

Are X-rays safe for dogs?

X-rays are typically only used occasionally and are primarily used as a diagnostic tool, even though the use of X-rays is generally thought to be safe for dogs. Because radiation is involved. Veterinarians occasionally employ X-ray technology to gather details regarding a dog's pregnancy. But in that situation, other imaging techniques, like ultrasound, might be used.

Speak to your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the use of X-ray technology and your dog's health. To help you decide whether you want your dog to have an X-ray, your veterinarian will be able to explain the risks versus the benefits in the specific circumstances of your dog.

How much will my dog's X-rays cost?

The price of your dog's X-rays will depend on a variety of factors, including the size of your pet, the area being X-rayed, whether sedation was used, the type of clinic, where your veterinary clinic is located, and more. A vet's estimate is something you should get before proceeding if you are worried about the price of your dog's X-rays.

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.

At Washington Dog and Cat Hospital, our vets use state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging tools to diagnose and treat numerous conditions in dogs and cats. Contact our Los Angeles clinic to book an appointment for your cat or dog.