Murphy, an 11-year-old Ragdoll cat, went in for a dental appointment last week - but the dental work didn't happen. He wasn't breathing right under anesthesia, so the vet decided to stop the anesthesia and to wake him back up.
They did a chest x-ray to make sure his lungs were OK, and they are (thank God). They think he responded unfavorably to the new sedation drug protocol they are using. It is supposed to be safer for the kitties, but he has never had it before.
So, when he goes back in, he will have the old drug he has done well on. It was an unfortunate situation that he didn't get the dental, however, his life is more important...and we got cat x-ray pictures to share.
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Cat X-Ray Pictures
The radiologist found this to be a normal cat chest x-ray, i.e., no scary things. There was a benign or non-pathologic area in the left side of the lung field (atelectasis) and a shifting of the heart that coincides with laying on his left side under anesthesia. Other non-pathologic subtle changes in the chest can probably be attributed to the sedation/anesthesia. Overall, good news for this cat abdomen x-ray!
I went to my parents’ house last night and picked up Murphy and said, “Beau, Beau! I saw your insides today!” He purred. And now, a lot more people get to see his insides. I love to see the cat skeleton. I hope you enjoyed seeing them as much as I did.
Feline Radiographs (X-Rays)
Radiographs or X-rays are non-invasive diagnostic imaging procedures that are extremely useful to vets. It is a painless procedure for the pets and in most cases, it can be performed without sedating the animal (which is an immense benefit for cats suffering from kidney, liver, heart disease or other medical issues that might make them ineligible for sedation).
X-rays are most commonly used to examine the cat's skeletal structure.
- Bone Integrity
- Bone Growth
- Thoracic Cavity
- Abdominal Cavity.
Radiographs are used to identify:
- Lung Pathology
- Cardiac Pathology
- Presence of Foreign Bodies
- The function of the Digestive Tract
- Other Issues.
For instance, if the cat has swallowed a toy or any object, an X-ray can provide immediate information about where it is located in the digestive tract, so the vet knows where to intervene.
In the event of trauma (accidents, falls), X-ray images can quickly provide information about fractures and even tears or lesions of the internal organs - spleen, liver, kidneys or other structures such as the diaphragm, which separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. This type of diagnostic imaging can also be used to determine the presence of liquids in the abdominal or thoracic cavity.
Veterinary dentists use dental radiographs to examine the cat's teeth and gum line. The dentist can spot structural anomalies, fractures, but also infections in the cat's teeth.
When Do You Use Cat Diagnostic Imaging?
Diagnostic imaging is used when veterinarians need to gain visibility into the state of the cat's internal structures - bones, blood vessels, nervous structures, and internal organs.
While exploratory surgery is the most precise way to examine a cat's internal organs, for instance, it is highly invasive. Instead, the doctor can use diagnostic imaging - X-rays, ultrasounds, CTs, and MRIs, which are entirely non-invasive. This is used in the diagnostic process.
Based on the information provided by diagnostic imaging, as well as the examination performed by the vet and, if needed, blood and urine testing, the cat receives a diagnosis and a treatment plan.
In some cases, such as fractures, for instance, the X-rays are enough for the vet to make an accurate diagnosis. Following treatment, which usually entails orthopedic surgery, X-rays are then used to re-examine how the fracture has been resolved.
The Four Types of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging.
There are four types of diagnostic imaging used in veterinary medicine:
- CT scans
- X-rays and ultrasounds are the most commonly used types, which are non-invasive, inexpensive, and do not require sedation (at least in most cases).
- MRIs and CT scans are less used because they require the cat to be sedated and because they are significantly more expensive.
Old cats, those suffering from lung, heart, liver, and kidney disease cannot be placed under general anesthesia, which makes them ineligible for MRIs and CTs.
X-Rays for Cats
During the radiographic procedure, X-ray machines pass X-ray beams through the body. The X-rays are either absorbed or scattered by the various internal structures of the cat's body, thus creating an X-ray pattern, which is sent to a detector, which then records it in image format. The image, or radiograph, is then used in the examination.
The image is generated and recorded with the purpose of providing information about the internal structure of the cat's body. It is used to assess structural damage or anomaly, as well as the presence or absence of foreign bodies, or disease.
Ultrasounds for Cats
Sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, commonly known as an ultrasound, is an imaging method that relies on high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures in the cat's body. It is performed using an ultrasound device that is placed outside the body in the area that needs to be examined.
Ultrasounds are most commonly used to examine the organs in the abdominal and pelvic cavity, but they are also useful for examining the organs in the thoracic cavity (especially the heart - examined in echocardiogram).
Ultrasound images are used to diagnose bladder stones, tumors in the abdominal organs, intestinal obstructions, and many more soft tissue issues.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) for Cats
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), also known as a tomography, is a complex diagnostic imaging procedure that leverages a powerful magnetic field to produce very detailed images of the cat's body. For this procedure, the cat must be sedated because it needs to sit perfectly still during it. After it has been sedated, the cat is carefully placed and immobilized in the electromagnetic chamber, where its body will be pulsed with radio waves. MRIs usually take 10-20 minutes. The images generated are significantly more precise than X-rays and provide more information about the examined structures.
CT Scans for Cats
CT scans or cat scans are computer-enhanced X-ray procedures, which are used to evaluate structures in great detail. Like MRIs, CTs also require the cat to sit perfectly still during the procedure, which takes several minutes. This means that cats have to be sedated for this procedure.
The cat is placed on a motorized bed that goes inside the CT scanner, which takes a very high number of X-rays from various angles of the examined portion of the body.
These images are then used by a computer to generate cross-sectional images of the examined area. CTs provide more accurate information than X-rays, but less accurate than MRIs as they do not compare the changes in fluid levels caused by inflammation or bleeding.
CTs are commonly used to diagnose fractures, tumors, foreign bodies, and deep lesions.
If you still have questions about diagnostic imaging for cats, then take a look as we go through the most commonly asked questions.
Is Diagnostic Imaging Safe for My Cat?
Yes, diagnostic imaging is entirely safe for the cat. These procedures are non-invasive and pose no risk to the cat. The amount of radiation used for X-rays and CTs is small enough to not put the animal at risk in any way.
But while the procedures themselves are safe, sedating the cat, which is required for all CTs and MRIs, and sometimes for X-rays and ultrasounds well, does come with risks.
Even if the cat must be sedated for only a few minutes, it might put the animal at risk if it suffers from heart, lung, liver, and/or kidney disease.
How much does an X-ray for a cat cost?
While the price of an X-ray ultimately depends on the veterinarian clinic where it is conducted, it is the least expensive type of diagnostic imaging available, followed by ultrasounds, which require a much longer examination time, and then by CT and MRIs, which require complex technology and sedation.
How do I know if my cat's tail is broken?
An X-ray will provide the required information to corroborate a tail fracture. The doctor will see where the fracture has occurred, what the involved bone structures look like, and whether or not there are loose bone fragments in the area. By examining the X-ray, the doctor will decide the best course of treatment. X-rays can also be used to identify old fractures, so if a cat has broken its tail a while back, this will be visible on a radiograph.
Can a vet read an X-ray?
Yes, all vets can read X-rays, but there are veterinarians who specialize in medical diagnostic imaging. They are known as veterinary radiologists, and they have extensive experience in interpreting X-rays, ultrasounds, MRI, and CT scans.