As in human medical care, diagnostic imaging is a common and effective way to help diagnose certain conditions in cats, from broken bones to cancerous tumors. Whether a veterinarian uses radiographs (x-ray), ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT) Scan, each diagnostic imaging tool helps them see a clear picture of what may be going on inside your cat’s body.
If your cat is limping or suddenly has a palpable new growth, you might go online researching what is involved in a diagnosis the underlying cause of the problem. At North Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Clinic, we work hard to bring you the accurate information you need. We have taken the most frequently asked questions about cat diagnostic imaging and answered them as thoroughly and accurately as possible. Please read more below so you can be better informed about these diagnostic modalities.
If you are looking for a highly trained veterinarian in San Mateo, CA, we are happy to assist you with any cat emergencies for an examination and any diagnostic imaging needs. Please call us at 650-535-3557.
What is diagnostic imaging?
Diagnostic imaging uses images to help diagnose a disease or injury. It includes radiographs (x-ray), ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT) scans. Diagnostic imaging helps a veterinarian collect more information to properly diagnose a condition.
How does the use of diagnostic imaging help to identify health issues in my cat?
Your veterinary team can use diagnostic imaging to help diagnose various abnormal health concerns with your cat. Each diagnostic imaging tool is used for specific conditions or circumstances.
Diagnostic imaging is used in the following ways to diagnose cat medical conditions:
- Radiographs (x-rays) – Commonly used to confirm broken bones, as bones show up exceptionally well on radiographs, gastrointestinal problems, pulmonary (lung) abnormalities (e.g., pneumonia, mass/tumor), fluid in the chest or abdominal cavities, urinary bladder stones, enlarged organs
- Ultrasound – Used to further diagnose an internal medical condition, enlisting soundwaves to photograph internal organs/tissues and easily view organ abnormalities. Ultrasound can be used to evaluate some organs, such as the pancreas, adrenal glands, and provide better images of the kidneys, as well as the heart and heart chambers.
- MRI – Shows detailed anatomic images, but does requires sedation or anesthesia of the cat
- CT Scan – Computer-enhanced radiograph (x-ray) that further evaluates complex parts of the body, showing different levels of tissue density, but does requires sedation or anesthesia of the cat
What are some possible conditions that are diagnosed using cat radiographs (x-rays)?
Radiographs (x-rays) are primarily associated with confirming broken bones, but this diagnostic tool plays a much broader role in evaluating health concerns in your cat. Radiographs are used to evaluate gastrointestinal problems, pulmonary (lung) abnormalities (e.g., pneumonia, mass/tumor), fluid in the chest or abdominal cavities, urinary bladder stones, enlarged organs
Some conditions that radiographs (x-rays) are used to diagnose include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Broken bones
- Cancerous tumors
- Gastrointestinal issues such as a blockage
- Fluid in the abdomen or chest cavities
- Pulmonary (lung/respiratory) abnormalities
- Bladder stones
How does a veterinarian decide that a cat needs diagnostic imaging?
A veterinarian will consider if diagnostic imaging is needed based on your cat's symptoms and physical examination. If your cat presents to the veterinarian with a limp or an leg injury, they will most likely take a radiograph. If they come in with a palpable tumor in their abdomen, your veterinarian can use either a radiograph, ultrasound, or both to evaluate the abdomen and further identify the problem. Cat owners are generally great about communicating their cat’s symptoms to help a veterinarian with a diagnosis. However, regardless of the details provided, the veterinary team still needs diagnostic imaging to confirm a diagnosis. That can include not only radiographs and ultrasounds, but possibly blood work and urine analysis. The Merck Veterinary Manual details additional diagnostic tests that they can use with diagnostic imaging.
Why is early detection and diagnosis of internal injury to your cat so important?
Early detection and diagnosis of any medical problem in your cat is critical to their well-being, quality of life, and longevity. We always want to identify a condition early and treat it effectively for the best prognosis. Dental disease, a wound, or a broken bone all need to be treated as soon as possible to ensure your cat’s long-term health.
If you have further questions about cat diagnostic imaging, reach out to your veterinarian. If you live in or near San Mateo, CA, we are happy to help you with any emergency with your cat including any diagnostic needs for your pet, so please don’t hesitate to call us at 650-535-3557.