When your pet is injured or sick, your veterinarian will likely want to “take a closer look,” which usually means some form of diagnostic imaging. Basically, your vet takes pictures of the inside of your pet to figure out what’s wrong. By diagnosing the exact cause of the problem, your vet can give your pet the most appropriate treatment. Our veterinary office has an extensive suite of imaging equipment that helps us quickly diagnose many injuries and diseases. Unlike most vet offices, we have a trained staff to do diagnostic imaging in-house. Because diagnostic imaging is non-invasive, your pet can be internally examined without the need for an incision.
The major types of diagnostic imaging are:
- X-rays: Also known as radiographs, X-rays are very familiar to most people, thanks to dental x-ray pictures. X-rays were once photographic negatives that were exposed to x-rays rather than visible light. Nowadays, the entire process is digital, and the results are better – an internal picture that is useful for diagnosing many problems, including broken bones, pneumonia and arthritis. The technology today works with minute amounts of x-rays, so that exposure is not harmful. X-ray operators must take precautions because they perform so many exposures over their careers. Our veterinary practice has a digital x-ray system that gives excellent detail with minimal exposure. We have computer terminals in our exam room — to allow clients to easily view their pet’s x-rays — and in our surgery suite, to allow surgeons to view the x-rays during surgery. We also have digital dental x-ray and imaging software which allows us to provide high quality dental images for better care.
- Ultrasound: Ultrasound is imaging based on sound waves rather than electromagnetic radiation. It is second only to x-rays in popularity for diagnostic imaging of pets. Ultrasound is harmless, and uses sound frequencies so high that even your pet can’t hear them. The use of ultrasound is especially useful in detecting abdominal diseases, even when x-rays can’t. Our practice has in-house ultrasound equipment and our staff is trained to do both cardiac and abdominal ultrasound imaging. Having the equipment and staff on hand not only allows us to do these procedures, but to do them on the day we decide we need them without having to schedule an outside service. Our staff performs the ultrasound scans and then the images are sent, via the Internet, to a board certified ultrasonography expert who does the interpretation.
- Endoscopy: Endoscopy allows us to visually examine your pet’s alimentary canal and breathing airways using a flexible instrument with a light source and a video camera. The images it detects are projected onto a monitor to facilitate viewing. An endoscope also has a second channel that allows us to inject air or water where needed and to take biopsy samples.Our office does a limited amount of endoscopy. We have a fiber optic endoscope with allows us to image the stomach and proximal small intestine. We may be able to view things like tumors, ulcers and foreign bodies. In fact, we recently were able to use endoscopy to remove a foreign body from the stomach of a dog without resorting to surgery. We also have a small, portable scope useful for airway exams.
- Scans: There are two main types of scans:
- CT-scanning: Often called CAT scanning (referring to computerized axial tomography), it involves taking a series of x-ray images, or “slices.” It is commonly used on complex body parts such as the chest, head and some joints.
- MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging substitutes radio waves and a magnetic field for x-rays. MRIs are good for investigating body tissue for inflammation and bleeding. Vets use MRIs to diagnose brain and spinal cord conditions such as strokes and herniated discs.
Your pet will relax and tolerate x-ray or ultrasound imaging without sedation unless it is very nervous or in pain. Endoscopy and scanning usually require anesthesia.