Cat Diagnostic Imaging - Why Cat Diagnostic Imaging Is Useful

What is cat diagnostic imaging?

Diagnostic imaging that we do here at the Animal Hospital of Statesville consists of x-rays or radiographs and also ultrasound or echocardiogram.

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

How does the use of diagnostic imaging help to determine health issues in my cat?

There are things that we can't see from the outside. The diagnostic imaging gives us a picture of what's going on internally inside the cat.

When would my cat require diagnostic images, and what type would you use?

If they have trauma or have a broken bone, we might choose x-rays because they are really good for bones and looking at orthopedic issues. If they are sick and maybe have an upset stomach or vomiting, we may choose something more like an ultrasound. Ultrasounds are better for looking internally at the organs themselves, even the heart in the chest. We call that ultrasound an echocardiogram. We may want to look at your cat's heart to see if it has a murmur or if there's an issue with the heart that we're concerned about.

What are some possible conditions that are diagnosed using cat x-rays?

Bones, fractures, and if they've eaten something that they shouldn't have. We've had a kitty cat eat the little tip off of a Nerf gun bullet before, so if they've eaten things. If they have fractures, and maybe if they're having breathing difficulty, the x-rays are great at looking at the lungs.

How will you decide when a cat needs diagnostic imaging?

That depends vastly on the history and physical exam. Depending on what the complaint and the reason the pet's coming in for is, we'll do a full physical exam, and we may also do diagnostics, like lab screening and blood work. If we haven't determined the cause, we may do imaging. In other words, we go step by step, and if we don't get the results we need, we go to the next step.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of internal cat injuries so important?

It's important because if we can diagnose something early, it usually carries a better prognosis. Also, the pet's not suffering if we can detect the problems early because cats are really good at hiding pain.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Diagnostic Imaging - FAQs

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

When is diagnostic imaging recommended for my cat?

Diagnostic imaging such as x-rays or ultrasound, which we do here, may be recommended if your pet is sick or hurt, such as limping on a certain leg, or if it's had trauma and we worry about fractures. An ultrasound might be indicated if we're worried about problems with the organs, like the kidneys or the liver, that's more specific for looking at the organs.

There's MRI and CT, which we don't do here. What are they usually good for?

CT or MRI may be more specific, like if there's a problem within the head that we aren't able to determine by an x-ray and ultrasound, which aren't really good at that area. So if they were concerned about something up in the nose or maybe even a mass or a tumor, that's where MRI or CT would be more specific.

Will my cat need a lab test prior to diagnostic imaging?

Not necessarily, but it's possible because we are trying to figure out the whole picture of what's going on. So if it's indicated, blood work like a complete blood count or chemistry might be indicated. If your pet is older, it might even include a urine test or a thyroid test for a cat. But we don't always require sedation. Lab work may or may not be required for the imaging.

What will you be looking for in a cat's diagnostic imaging?

Specifically for ultrasounds, if we're looking at the abdomen, we're often looking at the internal organs themselves, and if we're looking for a possible mass or a problem with the function of the organ. We use it a lot for the bladder to look for why a cat may be urinating inappropriately. We may also use it to collect samples. We will use ultrasound if we're trying to collect urine. X-rays would be better for orthopedic reasons or even just looking at the whole cat. We could look at the chest and the abdomen and zero in if we're not sure where that problem is.

How can x-rays help my cat?

It helps us to determine whether there are fractures or bone issues. X-rays are a little better for lung concerns because ultrasound waves don't go through air in the lung. So x-rays are better for looking at respiratory or pulmonary issues. We can get the bigger picture of the whole cat or cat.

How effective is the use of diagnostic imaging on my cat?

Even if we don't necessarily find the problem, it can rule out problems. I think that it's a very good tool to use, and it's one of many that we can use to find out what might be wrong because the patients that come in don't always tell us what's going on. They hide things, as Kyle alluded to before. That can help us to determine the problem.

What are baseline diagnostic images, and why are they important for my cat?

When I think about baseline, I think about "normal." So if we have baseline radiographs or x-rays, we know what your cat's "normal" is. If they come in with a problem later, we can compare what your cat was six months ago to where we are now. That might also reflect progression. Even if they're not necessarily "normal" images, we can see the progression of the disease to determine the severity of the prognosis. We can do that with echocardiograms for cats' hearts as well to see if they're getting worse.

What happens if there's still no diagnosis after diagnostic imaging in cats?

Sometimes we may not get the diagnosis, but we may rule out that something else might not be going on. So sometimes, those normal results are just as important as the abnormal results, and that can be hard to realize or remember when you're paying for that test. But the test can give us information on both sides of it. We may consider advanced imaging, which I call the CT or the MRI. We may refer you to a specialist if we haven't found the answer or test the response to treatment. In that case, we can have a set of differentials that we think are possible. We treat for that and see the response to treatment to see if your pet gets better. Sometimes you have to do that because there's a financial issue that makes that the only choice for the owner, where more testing or even referral may not be an option.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Diagnostic Imaging - FAQs 2

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

Is there anything I should do to prepare my cat for a diagnostic imaging session?

We may ask that your cat be fasted. So you should withhold food, especially if we're looking at the abdomen, because if they come in with a full stomach, it can hinder some of the organs that we're trying to look at. And sometimes you don't know. They come in for an appointment, and you add that to their treatments. We may not know to ask you ahead of time to fast your pet. Also, depending on your cat's behavior, we may need some calming medication. So we may ask you to administer that at home. Again, if we know ahead of time, that would be a way to prepare and relax your cat to have the best diagnostic images. They don't really understand "lay down on the table, be still and stretch out."

Does my veterinarian conduct the diagnostic imaging on my cat, or do I need to go to a specialist?

Most of the diagnostic imaging, like x-rays and ultrasound or echocardiogram, we do right here in our clinic. Our certified veterinary assistants and technicians do those procedures themselves. We are directly involved in that procedure. They take the images, and then we interpret or evaluate them. There are veterinary radiologists available, but we would use them by sending images to them to be read. You wouldn't necessarily make an appointment directly with them to have your pet x-rayed or have an ultrasound done as you might in human medicine. It's not segmented like human medicine, where if you need blood work, so you should go here. If you need an MRI, you go there. We do it all.

Will my cat need to see a radiologist?

The way veterinary medicine works, we may seek advice and get an interpretation from a radiologist, but you wouldn't actually have an appointment with them. If we need further study or referral, you would most likely go to either a surgeon or even an internal medicine doctor is how that would work.

Will my cat need anesthesia for the diagnostic imaging?

Most of the time, no, but it is possible depending on if your pet is painful, and they may not want to get in certain positions, and if your pet is unhappy coming to see us and very stressed out. We want to try to minimize stress, so we might offer some relaxing, calming medication. It depends on the situation, but I would say the majority of the x-rays and ultrasounds that we do, we do not sedate.

What happens to my cat during an x-ray?

With x-rays, I tell clients that it's a noninvasive test that we do. So physically, they're going to go into our x-ray room, and they're going to have to lay on a table. Usually, for cats, it's not terribly uncomfortable. They're fairly cooperative with that. When we talk about our dogs, sometimes we have really big dogs that are harder to get up on a table. We can see big cats too, but most of our cats are still within the ability to be able to pick them up and put them. We also have positioning trays available to make that more comfortable for them if needed, whether they're lying on their back or whether their leg might be extended in order to get a certain view for that. But usually, if they're not painful, they're fairly cooperative throughout the procedure.

Will my cat experience pain during diagnostic imaging?

The diagnostic imaging itself is not painful. If you've ever had an x-ray or even an ultrasound, you know that that in itself is not painful. However, if the pet is painful, getting in those positions that we need to get the right picture can be painful. In those situations, such as a fracture or a dislocated joint bone, we're almost always going to sedate your pet to provide us with the best diagnostic tools and your pet with the most comfort. That would be the best for the cat rather than struggling through it.

Is there any recovery time needed after an x-ray for a cat?

If there's no sedation used, there's really no recovery needed, even with ultrasound. Most of our ultrasounds are done without sedation. If there is any calming medicine or sedation given, most of the time, our indoor cats can go back to their indoor home environment just fine. If they are outdoor cats, we may recommend that you keep them in for a day or two just until they're fully up to the capacity to be able to go back outside safely. They'll tell you right away, but we say, just give them a little time before they have all their outdoor faculties right around them.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Diagnostic Imaging - FAQs 3

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

Have any risks been associated with cat diagnostic imaging?

The ones that we do here are ultrasound and x-ray. As a person, you may think about the risk of x-ray as being radiation exposure. The same with even just a little bit with ultrasound. Our pets are exposed so infrequently or in such mild doses that I don't feel we have any risk associated directly with our patients.

How do you ensure the safety of my cat during these procedures?

The safety depends a lot on their comfort, so we try to make the procedure as comfortable as possible. If your pet is painful and we're trying to put them in certain positions that hurt them, that can put them at higher risk for their safety. We also want to make sure they are secure, which is done by having them in an enclosed room where there's no risk of them hurting themselves or anything else happening, like them escaping.

How can the risks of cat diagnostic imaging be reduced or minimized?

The safety of the pet, and like we said, most of our diagnostic imaging, whether it's x-rays, ultrasound, or echocardiogram, doesn't require any sedation. To minimize those risks, if your pet is anxious, we try to make it as stress-free as possible, so there may be some calming medication recommended or involved.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.