If you’ve ever experienced an illness or injury affecting your lungs, sinuses, skull bones, spinal column, or internal organs, your physician likely ordered a computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans provide important information about the health of internal organs, bones, muscles, and joints, to help reach an accurate diagnosis, and form the proper treatment plan. In veterinary medicine, we also use CT scans to study your pet’s internal organs in greater detail to detect signs of illness, injury, or disease.  Anesthesia is used to assure we get the best images possible of your pet. Fortunately, our scanner can capture an entire area in only 18 seconds, after your pet is positioned. You may understand the importance of CT scans for your own health, but not realize how much a CT scan can benefit your pet’s health and well-being, so let’s take a closer look at how this advanced technology can help your furry friend. 

What is a CT scan?

Similar to a traditional X-ray, a CT scan takes images of body parts, but in much greater detail. But, unlike traditional X-rays, the X-ray beams and detectors rotate around your pet to create cross-sectional images, which can then be reformatted to produce three-dimensional models of the affected area, while traditional X-rays produce only two-dimensional images. We use CT scans to see a pet’s particular organ, bone, joint, muscle, or other internal body part in excellent detail.

What can a CT scan be used for in pets?

CT scans are often used if traditional X-rays fail to provide enough information. Occasionally, we may suspect a problem in a certain area, but an X-ray does not reveal an issue. We then turn to CT scans to see the problem area in greater detail, and gain more information than we can glean from an X-ray or ultrasound. 

At Cranberry Holistic Pet Care, we use CT scans frequently to diagnose and treat a variety of acute and chronic conditions that can impact your pet’s health, including:

  • Chronic respiratory problems
  • Sinus problems and inner ear disorders
  • Trachea issues
  • Orthopedic issues, such as hip dysplasia and joint degeneration
  • Head trauma
  • Lung diseases and tumors
  • Middle and inner ear disorders
  • Tumors and metastases
  • Brain or spinal injuries
  • Dental disease, such as abscesses

CT scans are frequently used in cancer situations, from measuring the size of a mass, looking for attachment to surrounding structures, and identifying metastases. This technology can also be used in angiograms, where we evaluate the health status of blood vessels, arteries, and heart chambers, and to evaluate nasal disease in patients with chronic nasal discharge. CT scans provide better images in every situation, with one main exception—they are less diagnostic than traditional X-rays with dental disease, because the contrast resolution of dental radiographs is unrivaled.

How does a CT scan work in pets?

During a CT scan, your pet must be anesthetized to prevent movement. The slightest twitch can corrupt the quality of your pet’s images, rendering them nondiagnostic. To avoid repeat scans, and to prevent anxiety, we place your pet under general anesthesia to ensure she remains completely still. If necessary, we also inject a contrast dye intravenously, to accentuate soft tissues and blood vessels. 

Although each scan takes about 30 seconds, a full CT scan, from the time your pet is induced, to the time she wakes up from anesthesia, can take 45 minutes to an hour. Depending on what our diagnostic scan reveals, we may move right into another procedure for treatment, or recover your pet from anesthesia, and create a treatment protocol that does not require sedation. 

Will my pet experience any side effects from a CT scan?

While people who have many CT scans over the course of their lifetime may develop an increased risk for radiation-induced cancers, pets rarely have repeated scans. In addition, current radiological instruments in veterinary medicine have reduced exposure times, so radiation-induced cancer is not  an issue. In rare instances, pets may experience some side effects from the anesthesia that is required for a CT scan. Your pet may be a little groggy the same day, so monitor her closely at home until the sedation has completely worn off. 

If your pet has a chronic issue that would benefit from further diagnostic testing, such as a CT scan, contact us to discuss the best options for your furry pal.