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X-Rays for Dogs

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 San Diego vets explain what you can expect when you take your dog for an X-ray. 

How do X-rays work? 

A type of electromagnetic energy carried in waves by photons is an X-ray. An X-ray beam emits energy that your dog's mineralized tissues or hard objects, such as teeth or bones, absorb. Some X-rays are absorbed by soft tissues such as the kidneys and liver, but none by air. Lead totally absorbs all X-rays.

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 commonly used by veterinarians to evaluate bones in limbs and the spine. Joints, on the other hand, may be more difficult to notice due to the density of soft tissues in ligaments and tendons. If X-rays of these locations are taken, your veterinarian will most likely be looking for abnormal swelling in a joint, cavities, or improper orientation or placing 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 take your pet to the veterinarian, he or she will frequently do an X-ray to obtain a better look at the condition. As a result, there is no need for forward planning. They will, however, explain the method and what they are searching for for a few minutes.

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, if your dog exhibits uneasy behavior, squirms, or shows signs of pain, the doctor will recommend sedation. Sedation may be required if the dog's muscles need to be relaxed in order to obtain the clearest image possible, or if the X-ray needs to take photos of the dog's spine, skull, or teeth.

Are X-rays safe for dogs?

X-rays are often utilized only on rare occasions and are largely employed as a diagnostic tool, despite the fact that X-rays are generally regarded to be safe for dogs. Because there is radiation involved. For pregnant dogs, veterinarians may use X-rays on occasion. However, in that case, other imaging modalities, such as ultrasonography, may 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 cost of your dog's X-rays will be determined by a number of criteria, including the size of your pet, the area being X-rayed, if sedation was used, the type of clinic, the location of your veterinary clinic, and others. If you are concerned about the cost of your dog's X-rays, you should acquire a vet's estimate before proceeding.

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 San Diego Bay Animal Hospital, our vets use state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging tools to diagnose and treat numerous conditions in dogs and cats. Contact our clinic to book an appointment for your cat or dog.

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San Diego Bay Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Diego companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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