Feline Diagnostic Imaging: Radiology, Ultrasound, CT and MRI

What Is Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging For Felines?

Veterinary diagnostic imaging includes radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, MRIs and CT scans, all of which are used as diagnostic tools to collect information on your cat's health. Metropolitan Veterinary Center offers dental, orthopedic, chest and abdominal radiographs as well as ultrasound. Due to space constraints, MRI and CT scan equipment are not offered at our facility. If you are seeking an MRI or CT, please consult with your primary care veterinarian or you can  Call Us: (312) 757-7809 for a referral.  The vast majority of imaging is non-invasive and completely painless. However, some imaging may require sedation or even anesthesia because the cat must be kept still to allow for adequate images to be produced. Veterinarians use these images to collect information on your cat to help them to make a medical and sometimes surgical plan. CT and MRI equipment is very expensive, very large, and requires a specially designed facility as to operate.  We refer to our specialty referral partners for CT and MRI scans.  

When Is Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging Necessary For Your Cat?

After your veterinarian has examined your cat, he or she may want to begin to collect more information that will lead to a diagnosis and then, a treatment plan. X-rays are usually a first line of imaging. The x-ray may lead to a diagnosis which allows them to move forward with a plan. However, sometimes the next step may be ultrasound to get a more thorough or specific look at a particular area of the body.

For instance, if your cat is vomiting and feeling ill, our veterinarian may take an xray to look for possible causes such as obstruction of intestines or an obvious foreign body. The x-ray may show some signs of an intestinal obstruction, however, before proceeding to surgery, it would be prudent in some cases to follow with an abdominal ultrasound. The ultrasound will give more detail of the area and therefore allow more confidence of the treatment plan to move forward with surgery. Occasionally, x-rays and ultrasound allow for a definitive diagnosis but other times they will simply add more information to help put the puzzle together for the best treatment plan for your cat.

Cat Radiographs or X-Rays

Cat x-rays have been in use throughout the medical community for many decades. Cat x-rays are by far the most commonly used form of diagnostic imaging in the veterinary industry because they are cost effective (comparatively speaking), and they can accurately diagnose the state of skeletal structure and composition, large body cavities, and the presence of many foreign objects. Cat x-rays are totally painless, but some cats can benefit from sedation to reduce anxiety and stress.

Metropolitan Veterinary Center means State-Of-The-Art Technology

At Metrovet, we chose a state-of-the-art digital veterinary X-ray machine by Summit Innovet that is built locally in Chicago. Using this technology, we can diagnose a wide range of medical conditions quickly and accurately. These images are displayed on a computer and can be saved for your home medical records or emailed between veterinary specialists. Digital X-rays also eliminate the need for toxic developing chemicals decreasing the risk of exposure to our veterinarians and your pet.

Why our veterinarians may recommend an X-ray exam:

  • Diagnose broken bones and muscle disorders
  • View size, shape, and placement of organs
  • Examine tumors and other areas of interest
  • Dental and mouth problems

Cat Diagnostic X-Ray Studies Available at Metropolitan Veterinary Center:

  • Abdominal X-rays
  • Chest X-rays
  • Dental X-rays
  • Spinal X-rays

Cat x-rays usually proceed as follows:

  • The cat is placed on the x-ray table
  • A technician positions the x-ray machine so that the x-ray beam targets only the area of interest
  • One or two technicians remain with the patient ensuring they stay still and are comfortable
  • Because cat x-rays are static images, the procedure usually requires less time than a procedure like an MRI; generally taking 10-15 minutes

Cat x-rays have traditionally been captured on actual film. However, Metropolitan Veterinary Center uses state-of-the-art digital radiogrpahs that allows us to capture the images on a secure server that our veterinarians can access at any time, and can also share with specialists, if necessary.

Why your veterinarian may request an X-ray exam:

  • Diagnose broken bones and muscle disorders
  • View size, shape, and placement of organs
  • Examine tumors and other areas of interest
  • Abdominal X-rays
  • Chest X-rays
  • Dental X-rays
  • Spinal X-rays

How Feline Radiographs Influence Our Veterinary Recommendations

The goal of feline radiographs is to ascertain a diagnosis, or obtain a final answer without having to perform further, more invasive tests or procedures. For example, an x-ray might show some soft tissue swelling in the knee but the addition of an MRI would reveal the specific tendon or ligament tear that is causing a cat to limp and allow for a more specific treatment plan, diagnosis and prognosis.

Veterinary diagnostic imaging offers an array of incredibly useful tools within a veterinarian's toolkit. Sometimes a diagnostic imaging session can lead to the need for further diagnostics. This is why it is important to understand that diagnostic imaging may lead to a progressive fact-finding mission that must occur in order to diagnose your dog's ailment.

If you are concerned that your dog might be injured or experiencing internal problems, or to discuss how canine radiographs can benefit him or her, please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians today.

Our professional staff is committed to providing your pet with quality care. Based on your veterinarian’s recommendations, he may want to pursue additional diagnostic testing such as ultrasound, CT, or MRI.

Cat Ultrasounds

A cat ultrasound is the second most common type of diagnostic imaging tool veterinarians use to diagnose a cat's medical condition. Ultrasounds use soundwaves to examine internal tissues in real time. An ultrasound allows a veterinarian to see into a cat's body, allowing for better viewing of organs from different angles that are not easily achieved through x-rays. 

A cat ultrasound procedure usually proceeds as follows:

  • The cats belly may need to be shaved
  • The cat ultrasonagrapher gently presses a small probe against the cat's body that emits digital sound waves
  • The sound waves are directed to various parts of the cat's abdominal area by manually shifting the probe's position
  • The sound beam changes velocity while passing through varying body tissue density, which causes echoes
  • Our ultrasound equipment converts these echoes into electrical impulses that are then further transformed into a digital image that represents the appearance of the tissues
  • These images can be viewed in real time by a veterinarian, as well as stored for further review at any time

In modern scanning systems like the ones Metropolitan Veterinary Center has on-site and uses on our feline patients, the sound beam sweeps through the body many times per second. This produces a dynamic, real-time image that changes as the cat ultrasound device moves across a cat's body. We can use the results of an ultrasound to determine what is ailing your cat, and to devise the most effective treatment protocol.

Common symptoms that may cause a veterinary to use ultrasound include: vomiting, weight loss, kidney impairment or blockage and heart disease.

Metropolitan Veterinary Center offers dental, orthopedic, chest and abdominal radiographs as well as ultrasound. Due to space constraints, MRI and CT scan equipment are not offered at our facility. If you are seeking an MRI or CT, please consult with your primary care veterinarian or you can  Call Us: (312) 757-7809 for a referral.  

Cat MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is the newest form of diagnostic imaging being used for both human and veterinary medicine. Cat MRI equipment generates a very powerful magnetic field, resulting in detailed anatomic images of whatever part of a cat's body is being scanned. No x-rays are involved, and a cat MRI is considered extremely safe.

A cat MRI procedure usually proceeds as follows:

The cat's body is continuously pulsed with radio waves for a period of time, usually 10-20 minutes

  • Cats must be sedated for this procedure because they cannot be restrained by humans and must remain still during the procedure
  • For the procedure, a cat is placed in a tubular electromagnetic chamber
  • The pulsing causes the cat's body tissues to emit radio frequency waves that can be detected by the MRI equipment. Many repetitions of these pulses and subsequent emissions are required in order to generate adequate digital feedback for the equipment to interpret.
  • The feedback is then converted into images that can be displayed on a screen, and can also be saved for future study

A cat MRI is not used as regularly as an x-ray or ultrasound because the equipment is very expensive, very large, and requires a specially designed facility as well as specially trained technicians to operate.  We refer to specialty centers for MRIs.  

CT Scans For cats

CT scans for cats, also known as "cat scans," are computer enhanced cat x-ray procedures most often used to evaluate complex parts of the body, such as the head, chest, some joints and various internal organs. CT scans show different levels of tissue density, and produce more detailed images than x-rays. Unlike MRI's, CT scans for cats do not use magnetic field waves so they cannot compare changes in fluid levels due to inflammation or bleeding. Therefore, CT scans for cats are used in situations where an MRI is considered unnecessary but a traditional x-ray is inconclusive or insufficient.

CT scans for cats usually proceed as follows:

  • Cats must be sedated for this procedure because they cannot be restrained by humans and must remain still during the procedure
  • The cat is placed on a motorized bed inside of a CT scanner, a machine that takes a series of x-rays from various angles*
  • When one series, or scan, is completed, the bed moves forward, and another scan is taken
  • A computer uses these scans to create cross-sectional images of the body part under investigation, and then display the images on a monitor (An x-ray dye may be injected intravenously to make it easier to see abnormalities)
  • By sequentially scanning an entire body area, an organ or other structure can be imaged without invasively penetrating the body, or disrupting neighboring structures

CT scans for cats are most often used by our veterinarians to detect structural changes deep within a cat's body, including:

  • Tumors
  • Deep abcesses or foreign body presense
  • Fractures

Just like MRI equipment, CT scan equipment is very expensive, large and requires trained technicians to operate.  We refer to specialty centers for CT scans. 

Metropolitan Veterinary Center offers dental, orthopedic, chest and abdominal radiographs as well as ultrasound. Due to space constraints, MRI and CT scan equipment are not offered at our facility. If you are seeking an MRI or CT, please consult with your primary care veterinarian or you can  Call Us: (312) 757-7809 for a referral.  

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