Dogs make excellent companions. They are loyal, friendly, and protective where necessary. On the other hand, we as pet owners will go to any lengths to ensure they remain in perfect health. It is difficult when pets become ill as they hardly voice their pain, not to mention the medical bills that come with treating dogs using x-rays.
For that reason, getting acquainted with ways to minimize the hefty medical bills when your pet gets sick or even possibly injured will save you a great deal of stress and headaches.
X-Rays are popular diagnostic tools for dogs. They are cost-effective and provide accurate diagnosis for skeletal structures and composition, vast body cavities, and the presence of foreign bodies inside your dog’s system that need to be dealt with.
The procedure of getting an X-ray is painless, though some dogs are sedated to reduce stress and anxiety.
Types of X-Rays For Dogs
They allow vets to identify foreign objects lodged in the dog’s abdomen that may be causing your pet to vomit or those that are obstructing their intestines.
Abdominal X-rays also help determine the size of tumors that are spotted on organs such as kidneys, spleen, liver, uterus, bladder, and prostate glands.
A vet may administer an oral agent to help highlight particular areas during this diagnosis.
They assist in determining problems in the lungs like pneumonia, tumors, and heart failure. Chest X-rays also identify fluid build-ups between the chest wall and the lungs.
A vet can also find out the size and shape of the dog’s heart and identify parts that may not be working well.
Enlarged lymph nodes and particular changes in the lungs indicate diseases like valley fever.
Chest X-rays are also performed on pets that have sustained injuries after a major trauma to rule out the presence of rib fractures or air in the chest cavity.
Vets also perform X-rays on the dog’s teeth where sections of the tooth roots or the jaw bone have infections.
These X-rays reveal teeth problems like bone deformations, fractures, and other orthopedic problems, some of which may be hereditary.
Special Type Of X-Rays
Some dogs may require an in-depth diagnosis that takes longer and produces more detailed images than standard X-rays.
Barium X-ray is a good example. This is a special X-ray that is used to diagnose gastrointestinal tract abnormalities.
This particular X-ray requires the administration of barium that attaches to the intestines and reveals problems like ulcers, tumors, and polyps.
A vet may then engage a radiologist to examine and interpret the results.
Other X-ray procedures may be performed on the dog’s head and neck to identify tumors and obstructions.
Vets also perform spine X-rays to determine vertebral problems like a slipped disk where your pet has trouble walking or back pain.
The Problem With Dog X-Rays
While X-rays assist in identifying internal problems that may not be visible to the naked eye; they are not the best procedures to reveal the internal structure of some organs.
X-rays are two-dimensional, hence difficult to identify tumors whose colors blend in with other tissues.
Additionally, sections of the body like the inner structure of the heart, lungs or abdominal organs require advanced diagnostic procedures like ultrasound, MRI, or CT Scans.
Preparing your Dog for an X-ray
While dog X-rays have become pretty common diagnostic procedures in different vet practices, it is important for dog owners to get acquainted with the steps involved before, during, and after the radio imaging.
Step 1: Before the X-ray
Vets advise dog owners not to feed their pets the morning of the examination if doing so does not interfere with their medical condition.
Also, some dog owners may demand the administration of a sedative for fear that their pets may become pesky during the procedure.
However, vets will only administer anesthesia depending on the dog’s extent of injury, personality, and areas undergoing the X-ray.
The sedative allows the vet staff to move the dog to an appropriate position, if need be, to obtain high-quality images.
A vet will also use a special ruler to determine the thickness and length of exposure required to obtain quality images, after which your pet is placed on the X-ray table to get an optimal view of the problem area.
Step 2: The Procedure
The vet begins by spreading a plastic cover or cassette containing film on the target section. This cover prevents impurities from reaching the film and distorting the image and comes in different sizes to fit the shape of the affected area.
They then position the X-ray equipment over the target area and trigger the rays to create images on the film. The images produced appear in variations of gray, depending on the density of the tissue. Overly dense tissues appear white on the film.
The vet may reposition the dog to obtain several views of the affected area. Multiple images reveal tumors and other health problems that are not visible in one image. The process of taking films takes 5-10 minutes, depending on the number of images taken.
An exposed film is then processed and reviewed to diagnose the issue and make recommendations for treatment.
Step 3: Viewing the Dog’s X-rays
Most vets will show and discuss the X-rays with dog owners, however sometimes the vet may send the images to another specialist to review. In both cases, they should not deny you the chance to see the results.
Legally, X-rays are stored in the dog’s medical record, hence kept in the vet’s office.
In some instances, you are obliged to pay an additional charge to obtain a copy of the X-rays.
Are X-rays Harmful to Dogs?
X-rays account for only 18% of a dog’s exposure to radiation; the rest comes from water, food, and other environmental elements.
Radiation causes a distortion of chromosomes, which causes a cumulative effect over time that increases the risk of developing cancer and congenital disabilities.
Puppies are particularly vulnerable to these radiation effects.
However, vets ascertain that only prolonged exposure to radiation through X-rays proves harmful. Single X-ray sessions last for forty minutes at most, hence cause little or no radiation effects.
Additionally, vet nurses cover dogs with lead tunics and masks to reduce exposure to X-rays. The vet should also keep a record of the dog’s X-ray history to ensure exposure remains within controlled levels.
Apart from performing X-rays to determine various diagnostic ailments, vets perform the procedure on pregnant dogs to determine the number of puppies to expect.
However, some breeders maintain that X-rays should be used as diagnostic tools for illnesses, not pregnancy.
As such, they may request the vet to perform alternative procedures to determine if the dog is expecting. If that’s the case, the vet may choose to palpate the dog’s abdomen when she is 28 days pregnant or recommend an ultrasound at 21 days.
Given that X-rays have become lucrative ventures for most vet clinics, some people tend to misuse its function (as with everything else that proves to be profitable in the world nowadays).
As such, dog owners should visit credible vets and ascertain the need for an X-ray to diagnose health problems.
How Much Do Veterinary Dog X Rays Cost?
Dog X-rays range from $80-$400, depending on several factors we will be discussing in the following shortlist.
– Whether a sedative or anesthesia was administered
– The location of the X-ray and the number of views required (A hip X-ray, for example, may cost up to $150 and may require more than one view, which adds to the total cost.)
– The type of facility (regular vet office or animal hospitals for emergency). X-rays that are conducted in an emergency animal clinic are more expensive (sometimes twice the cost) than those performed at a vet’s office. The cost of living in a particular city comes into play too as some areas charge lower rates than others.
– The type of X-ray (modern or digital). Modern X-rays involve digital imaging that produces clearer images and delivers them to a secure server for vets to access at any time and share with other specialists. Such X-rays cost more than their regular counterparts.
A single X-ray session costs between $40 and $125 with additional ones ranging from $20-$75.
The price also increases if an anesthesia or sedative is required (Note that the amount of sedative administered varies depending on the size of the dog; relatively huge pets require anesthesia whose cost ranges between $50 and $220 while sedatives given to small dogs cost $40-$180.)
The procedures are not always complicated as some X-rays are performed without putting the dog into a machine.
These are rough estimates as every vet charges different prices and they are exclusive of initial appointments, which often range from $45-$100.
Insurance plans for pets come in handy when paying for emergency health bills. Most plans range from $35-$50 per month, depending on your needs. Some dog owners are tempted to sign up for cheap plans, but these plans hardly cover emergency health bills.
It is important to conduct a little research before signing up and to determine the particular costs included in the cover. Senior dogs, for example, require covers that include cancer treatments, X-rays, and blood works.
A puppy needs a less detailed plan, but it should cover emergency costs.
Discuss with your vet about a plan that suits you and your canine friend. Some insurance plans are set up via particular vet offices while others have wider platforms.
Other Kinds of Medical Imaging for Dogs
X-Rays make the first type of medical imaging for dogs.
As earlier mentioned, though, X-rays might not have the ability to determine certain health problems.
Advanced imaging options are important as they allow the vet to focus on particular areas of the body.
Ultrasounds are the second type of diagnostic imaging tool also used to diagnose a dog’s medical condition. Ultrasounds make use of sound waves to examine and take images of internal tissues in real time.
Vets can view the organs in different angles that are not usually visible when using X-rays. Ultrasounds also allow vets to observe the flow of blood and function of the various organs.
Though dogs have acute hearing abilities, they can’t detect ultrasound emissions.
This is an acronym that stands for “magnetic resonance imaging”.
The dog MRI equipment produces a powerful magnetic field that generates detailed images of the affected area of the body being scanned.
It does not use X-rays, hence is considered a safe option and ideal for performing brain or spinal cord imaging.
CT Scans for Dogs
CT scans are computer-aided dog X-ray procedures that are used to examine complex parts of the body like joints, head, and various internal organs.
Vets use CT scans when they want to determine levels of tissue density and generate more detailed images than those obtained by X-rays.
CT scans do not use magnetic field waves as in MRIs, hence can’t compare fluid levels caused by bleeding or inflammation.
The procedure is performed where an MRI is considered pointless, but the regular X-ray process proves inconclusive.
The Cost of X-Ray Alternative Imaging Techniques
The cost of alternative medical imaging systems fluctuates based on the method being used and the person conducting it.
Ultrasounds, for example, have a price range of $300-$500.
The primary factors influencing the cost of ultrasound is the person performing the procedure.
Local vets may refer the ailing dog to a special clinic that has the necessary ultrasound equipment and expertise to handle it.
CT scans and MRIs, on the other hand, cost as much as $2,500 per session.
The price accounts for the expensive and scarce equipment used to perform the procedure.
Clearly, the cost of dog X-rays is pretty affordable compared to alternative imaging techniques.
At the end of the day, if you’re visiting your regular vet which you know and have been familiar with for a good amount of time now, you may just haggle for a cheaper rate.