MRIs for Dogs: How They Can Help

At Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group (VMSG) in Ventura, our board-certified veterinary specialists use the MRI in our in-house diagnostic lab to help diagnose and create treatment plans for a wide range of health issues in dogs. These include brain tumors, ruptured CCLs and more. Here our vets explain why MRI scanners can be helpful for dogs and the conditions this technology can help us to diagnose and treat.

Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

While diagnostic technologies like x-rays and CT scans use electromagnetic radiation which, when administered in large doses, can be harmful, MRIs use magnetic fields to construct detailed and high-quality diagnostic images of the interior of the body. MRIs are generally used as a final step after other, more traditional diagnostic testing has been used. Often, it will also not be recommended if a pet is in too poor health to undergo the surgery the MRI would likely reveal to be required as well.

MRIs, or magnetic resonance imaging, have been used to diagnose and treat health conditions affecting humans since the 1980s. It wasn't until recently that MRIs started to see more widespread use in veterinary medicine

Why Veterinary MRIs Are Helpful

While it can often be quite easy to see that your pet is experiencing pain or discomfort, dogs aren't able to explain what they are feeling to us. Because of this, we rely on diagnostic imaging and tests to find the root of the issue. Veterinary MRI scans allow us to evaluate the inside of your dogs body in a non-invasive manner.

MRI scans can provide your veterinarian with high-resolution, detailed images of your pet's soft tissues such as the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons and abdominal organs. When it comes to many soft tissue injuries or diseases, Veterinary MRI often provides a more detailed picture of your dog's body than other diagnostic imaging tools such as x-rays or CT Scans. 

Conditions That MRI's Can Help to Diagnose 

If your pup is suffering from health issues like lameness, seizures, neck pain back pain, joint pain, paralysis or limping, your vet may recommend an MRI to help diagnose the cause of their symptoms. MRI scans can be used to help diagnose and create treatment plans for a wide variety of conditions affecting dogs, including:

  • Abdomen conditions indicated by organ enlargement or a tumor
  • Stroke
  • Spinal disc tumor, herniated discs, or stenosis
  • Brain tumor, inflammation, or abscess
  • Musculoskeletal diseases and injuries such as ruptured cranial cruciate ligament or shoulder instability

The Veterinary MRI Process

When used on people or pets, MRIs take between 45 minutes and an hour to finish the procedure and require the patient to be absolutely still for that time. As you might be able to imaging, it's quite difficult to make a dog stay extremely still, not least of all when they are stuck inside a strange machine.

Because of this, we use general anesthetic on dogs undergoing MRI scans. Vets will generally recommend x-rays and blood tests be done before an MRI to help ensure that your pet is in good enough health to avoid complications associated with undergoing anesthesia.

The Drawbacks of MRI Imaging for Dogs

One of the primary drawbacks of MRIs is actually this need for general anesthesia. Some dogs may not be strong or healthy enough to go under the effects of general anesthetis, meanings that using MRIs isn't possible for these pets.

While MRIs are particularly helpful in diagnosing ligament, spinal cord and brain issues, other conditions are better detected using other diagnostic tools like CT scans or x-rays. MRIs may also be less helpful when diagnosing head trauma, fractures and damage to internal organs when compared to these other diagnostic tests.

Another drawback of MRI is the cost. If your pet requires an MRI you can expect to pay between $2000 - $3500. That said, pet insurance plans will typically cover the cost of diagnostic testing such as MRI, (check with your insurer to see if MRI is part of your pet's coverage).

Veterinary MRI for Pets in Matthews

At Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group (VMSG), our veterinary neurologist uses the most advanced tools available to help provide an accurate diagnosis of your pet's medical issues. Our in-house diagnostic imaging capabilities, including veterinary MRI, allow us to provide quicker diagnosis and treatment options, as well as the ability to share detailed information with your primary care veterinarian in the most time-efficient manner.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your pet been diagnosed with a serious medical condition that demands more detailed diagnostic imaging? Ask your vet about a referral to Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group (VMSG). Our team of veterinary specialists can use our in-house diagnostic lab and imaging tools to provide accurate diagnosis and customized treatment plans for your dog's health condition.

MRIs for Dogs - How They Can Help | Ventura Animal Hospital

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