We want the best possible care for our pets, but they can’t always verbally tell us what’s going on. This is why imaging has proven to be invaluable when diagnosing and understanding our pet’s health issues. One of the most common types of imaging in veterinary medicine is radiographs – also known as x-rays. While x-rays are often needed, it’s important for pet parents to understand not only the benefits of x-rays, but also the limitations of x-rays in veterinary medicine and how results can be used to aid in the overall well-being of your beloved pet.
Benefits of X-rays
- Accurate Diagnosis
- X-rays allow veterinarians to see inside your pet’s body without invasive procedures. X-rays are especially useful for diagnosing conditions such as fractures, tumors, foreign objects, and changes in organ size, position, or density. They provide valuable information that helps veterinarians decide on an effective treatment plan.
- Rapid Results
- X-ray images are obtained quickly by your family veterinary clinic, emergency clinic, or specialty hospital and provide immediate images that can be viewed by your veterinarian as well as sent to a board-certified veterinary radiologist for viewing and reporting.
- X-rays are often taken in awake patients, but sedation can also be provided to allow pets to be calmer and more comfortable.
- Monitoring Progress
- X-rays are often used to monitor the progress of a pet’s condition and treatments. Examples include evaluating the chest for spread of cancer to the lungs, pneumonia, and bone healing after fractures.
Limitations of X-rays
- X-rays are comprised by taking your pet’s anatomy and compressing it into shadows on an x-ray image. Bones often show up clearly on an x-ray, but soft tissue organs (such as the liver, spleen, or kidneys) may blend together due to their similar densities and the way they overlap on the image – sometimes making it difficult to identify abnormalities.
- Lack of Function Information
- X-rays take a snapshot in time and do not show movement of structures (such as mobile fractures) or function of the intestines. We can sometimes work around this by repeating an x-ray study within a short period of time to compare.
- Some Patients Require Different Diagnostic Tools
- Some pets require more advanced imaging types such as CT, MRI, and ultrasound. These modalities each have their own benefits but generally provide more specific details of internal anatomy.
Overall, x-rays are a commonly available and useful tool to assist veterinary teams in figuring out why a pet is ill. X-rays have their limitations (which you can discuss more specifically with your veterinarian,) but their benefits often far outweigh their limitations.
If you have any questions or concerns about needing x-rays or other imaging for your pet, talk to your family veterinarian. In some cases, they may choose to refer your pet to our Imaging Service. We offer x–ray, CT, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging,) and ultrasound technology. Our board-certified veterinary radiologists help interpret imaging findings to provide results that pet parents can trust.