When your vet suggests an x-ray examination for your dog, you will probably have some questions and concerns. Your vet is the best person to answer your questions; however it is a good idea for dog owners to get a basic understanding of this very important diagnostic procedure.
What can x-rays do?
X-rays are one of the most basic diagnostic tools at your vet’s disposal and even the very smallest of practices will have their own x-ray machine and staff qualified to use it. It is often veterinary technicians rather than vets that perform and develop the x-rays. However, the images are always examined by the vet for diagnosis.
X-rays are a fast way to see internal problems, and can be used in a variety of circumstances. In some cases, other examination tools can be more valuable, such as in cases where soft tissue needs to be examined, as this does not always show up well on x-rays.
As a rule, x-rays can provide shots of bone, foreign bodies, internal organs and tissue. In some cases they may be used to detect tumors or other abnormal growths, and the spread of cancers. X-rays are not fool-proof, and some tumors may be virtually invisible to x-ray if they blend in with the tissue of the body. Plastic will not show up well on x-rays, meaning that foreign bodies of this type may go unnoticed.
In order to examine the internal structure of organs such as the heart or lungs, MRI scanning or computer tomography are a better choice, and in some cases, a barium test may be needed alongside of an x-ray.
Are x-rays safe?
X-rays, of course, generate radiation, which is something that can concern people. Too much exposure to x-ray radiation can be harmful, which is why veterinary staff need to limit their exposure to x-rays by means of lead tunics and masks. But what about your furry friend?
The key to x-ray safety is limiting exposure. One x-ray, or a carefully controlled series of repeated x-rays are safe for your dog, and even used sometimes to scan pregnant bitches. Your vet should keep a record of your dog’s x-ray history to ensure that their exposure remains within safe levels. Used in moderation and only when needed, x-rays are not a health risk for your dog.
Does the dog need to be unconscious for an x-ray?
Whether or not your dog needs to be sedated for their x-ray depends on a number of things. The size and shape of your dog, the area that needs to be examined and how cooperative your dog is will all contribute! For some dogs that will keep still in one position for their x-ray, sedation may not be needed. But for dogs that squirm a lot, won’t stay in one place, or that need to be placed in an odd position for their x-ray, sedation may be required.
What determines the cost of canine x-rays?
There is no simple formula to determine the cost of an x-ray exam; every examination is different, and prices can vary between different practices, locations, etc.
Some of the factors that determine price include how many images need to be taken to get the right shot, and how easy or difficult it is to arrange. It may mean that just one vet tech is needed to complete the procedure and attain one image, or several staff may be needed to help with positioning, angling and keeping your dog still.
Sedation is an added cost. Something overlooked by pet owners--the fee does not just cover the process of getting the image itself, but the assessment of the image and what it shows. Second opinions, the opinions of a specialist and other considerations are also factored into the cost if needed.
Your vet should be able to explain to you in advance their pricing structure for x-rays, and how their ultimate fee is reached.
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