Looking inside the body to see how structures, organs, systems are orientated, their size, located, and relationship to one another is very valuable.
There are a number of tools we use in Veterinary Medicine, the most common being x-ray.
Ultrasound is also becoming more common.
MRI and CT are available at some referral centres in Vancouver also.
This discussion will focus on x-rays (radiographs) and ultrasound but feel free to talk with Dr. Childs about any of the others as she has a keen interest in imaging (has done research in cardiovascular MRI and has published papers on these topics, if you are keen just google Helene Childs cardiovascular MRI, http://jcmr-online.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1532-429X-13-40 )
X-rays are nice because they are very fast, powerful, and frequently used to assess many structures and organs in the brain.
They are especially useful for bones, lungs, some soft tissues, the gastrointestinal system and teeth (more about dental xrays in the link coming soon!).
What are x-rays NOT great at diagnosing? In short, moving parts (think heart valves, bile ducts), nerves (including the large collection in the skull!), and very small sensitive organs (eg adrenal glands). Furthermore, while we might be able to determine that there is free fluid, inflammation, or a mass, it is not possible to say for sure the nature of this material and thus sampling is usually necessary (more about this under sampling, link coming soon!).
What you need to know when your pet is having x-rays taken:
As our clinic is a “low-stress” clinic we do everything possible to have our patients experience as little discomfort as possible. Thus, sedation is sometimes necessary to perform xrays (similar to pediatrics), as simply asking nicely to hold very still while we take the shot is often not well recieved (possible communication barrier, we are working on this).
Sedation is typically uneventful and very routine in veterinary medicine. It is different than anesthesia (post about this, link coming soon!) whereby a few different medications are carefully combined to suite your pet to relax them, reduce any pain they’re experiencing, and blurr their memory of the whole event. As these meds are metabolized and cleared by various organs it is important that we are sure they are functioning appropriately (thus blood testing is done before sedation is performed). In pets whos blood test show organ function that is abnormal or there are other abnormalities of thier physical exam (eg heart murmur) the sedation medication may need to be adjusted accordingly.
By optimizing the sedation for your pet we ensure they are receiving the safest, shortest acting, and often reversible protocol.
For certain procedures where complete stillness is required (eg skull x-rays) sedation is mandatory.
X-rays equipment and radiation exposure
For both our staff, the patient, and possible unborn animal inside, reducing the radiation exposure is very important. Our facility is regularly inspected and designed to ensure maximal radiation safety. Our staff are specially trained and wear protective and monitoring equipment to both reduce exposure and track exposure over time (personal Geiger counters). This is why owners won’t be able to join us when taking xrays. But we have included photos of our facility where your pet will be briefly, and we are more than happy to go over the images once they have been taken.
Our facility uses the latest digital x-rays equipment to ensure your pet and our staff have the minimal x-rays exposure.