PET/CT Scans for Dogs & Cats

To help you understand why your four-legged family member may need a CT scan or PET scan our Thomasville vets explain what PET/CT technology is used for and what you should expect when you take your pet in for diagnostic imaging. 


Diagnostic Imaging For Dogs & Cats

Diagnostic imaging plays an essential role in the diagnosis and treatment of disease in both human and veterinary medicine. The advancements made in technology and imaging over the past years have aided tremendously in helping doctors diagnose and treat various conditions that may have been proven difficult before.  As in human hospitals, a CT scanner is an essential diagnostic tool for veterinarians.  

What is the difference between a PET scan vs CT scan?

A CT scan creates a detailed still image of your animal's organs, bones and tissues. A PET scan, on the other hand, shows doctors how the tissues in the body work on a cellular level.

  • CT and PET use different materials: CT scans pass x-rays through the body to create images. Whereas A PET scan uses a radioactive material that emits energy which can be detected by a special camera.
  • A PET scan takes longer. Where a CT scan can be performed in minutes making it an excellent tool for emergency situations when a vet needs to act fast. A PET scan can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours to complete.
  • There is no radiation remaining in your pet's body following a CT scan, whereas after a PET scan a small amount of radiation may stay in the body for a short period of time.
  • PET scans show molecular activity that can help in the very earliest detection of disease. This is why a PET scan is a highly reliable tool for detecting cancer in people. A CT scan will show signs of an issue after the disease has begun to change the structure of the tissues or organs.

How Does a CT Machine Work?

Computed tomographic imaging, also known as a "CT" or "cat scan", works by producing multiple individual images or "slices" throughout a region of interest in the body through the use of radiation (x-rays) and a computer.  A common comparison to an image produced by a CT scanner is individual slices of bread that make up a complete loaf.  The CT machine produces two-dimensional slices of a section of your pet’s anatomy and then reconfigures them into a complete image we can view.  These slices can also be used to create three-dimensional reconstructions that can be very useful for things like surgical planning. Once the images are produced, they are sent to your vet or a veterinary specialist to review and interpret. 

What are PET/CT (PET-CT) scans used for in pets and how is it beneficial? 

Understanding veterinary diagnostic imaging can get confusing, so what is the difference between a PET scan vs CT scan?

Pet CT Scans

The high-resolution images produced by the CT scanner help vets to evaluate your pet's anatomy in greater detail than we would otherwise be able to using standard x-rays. 

CT scanners provide excellent detailed scans of bony and soft tissue structures in the body. The most common areas of the body scanned by vets using CT technology include your animal's spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest or lungs. We can also use CT technology to assess your pet's lymph nodes, thyroid gland, abdominal organs, skull/brain, and vascular structures.

PET Scans For Companion Animals

A CT scan can also be combined with a contrast agent that is given to your cat or dog intravenously (IV), allowing us to see increased areas of blood flow in the body. This aids in the detection of cancer and areas of inflammation. In people Positron Emission Tomography (PET)  scans are used to give doctors a detailed view of how the patient's tissues and organs are working. PET scans are most commonly used to detect and monitor cancer.

What to Expect if Your Pet Has a PET/CT Scan?

In order for a CT scanner to produce high-quality images, it is very important for the patient to be completely still while the scan is taking place. In human medicine, simply telling the patient to not move and to occasionally hold their breath is sufficient. However, this technique is not feasible for dogs and cats, so heavy sedation or general anesthesia is required. 

Your pet's vital signs are closely monitored while under anesthesia throughout the entire CT. The CT scanners are very efficient, and a typical CT scan only takes a short time.

Following the CT, your vet or veterinary specialist will interpret your pet's images and provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition along with recommendations regarding the best course of treatment for your companion animal.

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.

Does your pet need diagnostic imaging? At Thomasville Veterinary Hospital Urgent Care + Surgery our in-house lab is equipped with the diagnostic imaging technology we need to provide you with a fast and accurate diagnosis of your dog's issue, contact us to learn more and book an examination for your pet.

Our Thomasville vet explains how CT/PET technology helps in veterinary care.

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