To help you understand why your four-legged family member may need a CT scan, our Los Angeles vets explain how CT technology is used and what you should expect when you take your dog for diagnostic imaging.
Diagnostic Imaging for Dogs
Diagnostic imaging, such as computerized tomography (CT), is essential in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases in veterinary medicine. The advancements made in technology over the years have helped veterinarians diagnose and treat various conditions that they may not have been able to treat before., and a CT scanner helps them do that.
What is a CT scan?
A CT scan creates a detailed, still image of your dog's organs, bones, and tissues. CT scans take only minutes to perform—making them great for emergencies—and work by passing X-rays through the body to create images. A CT scan can show signs of a disease after the disease has begun to change the structure of the tissues or organs. After a CT scan, there is no radiation remaining in your pet's body.
How does a CT machine work?
A CT scan works by producing multiple individual images—sometimes called 'slices'—of the area of interest via X-rays and a computer. A common comparison of a CT scanned image is individual slices of bread that make up a complete loaf. The CT machine produces 2D slices of a section of your dog's body and then reconfigures them into a complete image.
These slices can also be used to create 3D reconstructions, which can be very useful for things like surgical planning. Once the images are produced, they are sent to your vet or a veterinary specialist to review and interpret.
Why do dogs need CT scans?
The most common reason your veterinarian may recommend a CT scan for your dog is if they suspect there's a problem and need a clearer picture of what it is. A CT scan, with its detailed image of your dog's interior, lets your veterinarian better diagnose potential issues and administer the appropriate treatment plan.
How are CT scans for dogs beneficial?
The high-resolution images produced by a CT scanner help vets evaluate your dog's anatomy in greater detail than traditional X-rays allow.
CT scanners provide excellent, detailed scans of bony and soft tissue structures in your dog's body. The most common areas scanned by veterinarians using CT technology include your dog's spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, chest, and lungs. Veterinarians may also use CT technology to assess your dog's lymph nodes, thyroid gland, abdominal organs, skull/brain, and vascular structures.
A CT scan can also be combined with a contrast agent that is given to your dog intravenously (IV), allowing your vet to see increased areas of blood flow in the body. This is a great way to detect cancer and areas of inflammation.
What to expect when your dog has a CT scan
Your veterinarian will likely tell you to avoid feeding your dog the night before the scan. This helps to get the clearest possible image. Further, the dog needs to be completely still while the scan happens. This means heavy sedation or general anesthesia is required.
Your dog's vital signs are closely monitored while under anesthesia throughout the CT. The CT scanners are very efficient, and a typical CT scan only takes a short time.
Following the CT for your dog, your vet or veterinary specialist will interpret the images and provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your dog's condition along with recommendations regarding the best course of treatment for your pet.
Average Cost of a CT Scan for Dogs
The price of a CT Scan for dogs usually varies depending on a number of factors. If you're curious, it's best to contact your vet or specialist directly. They should be able to give you a more accurate estimate.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only. Washington Dog and Cat Hospital does not offer CT scans at this time.