What Is Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging For Felines?
Veterinary diagnostic imaging includes radiographs (x-rays) including dental xrays, ultrasound, and digital thermal imaging, all of which are used as diagnostic tools to collect information on your cat's health. The vast majority of imaging is non-invasive and completely painless. However, some imaging may require sedation or even anesthesia because the cat must be kept still to allow for adequate images to be produced. Veterinarians use these images to collect information on your cat to help them to make a medical and sometimes surgical plan.
When Is Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging Necessary For Your Cat?
After your veterinarian has examined your cat, he or she may want to begin to collect more information that will lead to a diagnosis and then, a treatment plan. X-rays are usually a first line of imaging. The x-ray may lead to a diagnosis which allows them to move forward with a plan. However, sometimes the next step may be ultrasound to get a more thorough or specific look at a particular area of the body. Thermal imaging gives us a look at the surface temperature of your cat's body, which can pinpoint where inflammation and nerve injury is occurring.
For instance, if your cat is vomiting and feeling ill, you veterinarian may take an xray to look for possible causes such as obstruction of intestines or an obvious foreign body. The x-ray may show some signs of an intestinal obstruction, however, before proceeding to surgery, it would be prudent in some cases to follow with an abdominal ultrasound. The ultrasound will give more detail of the area and therefore allow more confidence of the treatment plan to move forward with surgery. Occasionally, x-rays and ultrasound allow for a definitive diagnosis but other times they will simply add more information to help put the puzzle together for the best treatment plan for your cat. The types of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging our veterinarians may utilize to assist in diagnosis of your cat's condition are:
- Digital Thermal Imaging
More information on each of these types of radiographs is provided below.
Cat x-rays have been in use throughout the medical community for many decades. Cat x-rays are by far the most regularly used form of diagnostic imaging in the veterinary industry because they are cost effective (comparatively speaking), and they can accurately diagnose the state of skeletal structure and composition, large body cavities, and the presence of many foreign objects. Cat x-rays are totally painless, but some cats can benefit from sedation to reduce anxiety and stress.
Cat x-rays usually proceed as follows:
- The cat is placed on the x-ray table
- A technician positions the x-ray machine so that the x-ray beam targets only the area of interest
- Modern x-ray equipment allow for low levels of radiation and when used only occasionally are perfectly safe for your cat
- Because cat x-rays are static images, the procedure usually requires less time than a procedure like an MRI
Cat x-rays have traditionally been captured on actual film, and still can be when necessary. However, our x-ray images are now digital which allows us to capture the images on a secure server that our veterinarians can access at any time, and can also share with specialists, if necessary.
A cat ultrasound is the second most common type of diagnostic imaging tool veterinarians use to diagnose a cat's medical condition. Ultrasounds use soundwaves to examine and photograph internal tissues in real time. An ultrasound allows a veterinarian to see into a cat's body, allowing for easy viewing of organs from different angles that are not easily achieved through x-rays. The functioning of various organs can be observed to determine if they are malfunctioning.
A cat ultrasound procedure usually proceeds as follows:
- A cat ultrasound technician gently presses a small probe against the cat's body that emits digital sound waves
- The sound waves are directed to various parts of the cat's abdominal area by manually shifting the probe's position
- The sound beam changes velocity while passing through varying body tissue density, which causes echoes
- Our ultrasound equipment converts these echoes into electrical impulses that are then further transformed into a digital image that represents the appearance of the tissues
- These images can be viewed in real time by a veterinarian, as well as stored for further review at any time
In modern scanning systems like the ones Viera East Veterinary Center has on-site and uses on our feline patients, the sound beam sweeps through the body many times per second. This produces a dynamic, real-time image that changes as the cat ultrasound device moves across a cat's body. We can use the results of an ultrasound to determine what is ailing your cat, and to devise the most effective treatment protocol.
Common symptoms that may cause a veterinary to use ultrasound include: vomiting, weight loss, kidney impairment or blockage and heart disease.
Cat Digital Thermal Imaging
In many cases of lameness in cats, it is difficult to find painful areas, because cats do not want us to find their "weakness". Sometimes there is more than 1 area that is painful. Thermal imaging utilizes a thermal camera to take pictures of the surface temperatures of your cat's body. Looking for asymmetry when comparing rear legs, front legs, sides of trunk, sides of back will give us a much better idea of where the problem areas are. This enables us to treat these targeted areas more effectively.
How Feline Radiographs Influence Veterinary Recommendations
The goal of feline radiographs is to ascertain a diagnosis, or obtain a final answer without having to perform further, more invasive tests or procedures. For example, an x-ray might show evidence of a tumor of the spine and possibly involve the surrounding muscle. This type of information is very important for a prognosis and treatment plan.
Veterinary diagnostic imaging offers an array of incredibly useful tools within a veterinarian's toolkit. Sometimes a diagnostic imaging session can lead to the need for further diagnostics.
If you are concerned that your cat might be injured or experiencing internal problems, or to discuss how feline radiographs can benefit him or her, please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians today.