To help you understand why your four-legged family member may need a CT scan or PET scan our Tigard 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 is critical in both human and veterinary medicine for disease diagnosis and treatment. Technology and imaging advancements in recent years have greatly aided doctors in diagnosing and treating various conditions that were previously difficult. A CT scanner is an essential diagnostic tool for veterinarians, just as it is in human hospitals.
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 bodywork 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 that 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," uses radiation (x-rays) and a computer to create multiple individual images or "slices" throughout a region of interest in the body. Individual slices of bread that make up a complete loaf are a common analogy for a CT scanner image. The CT machine takes two-dimensional slices of your pet's anatomy and reconfigures them into a complete image that we can see. These slices can also be used to generate three-dimensional reconstructions, which are extremely useful for things like surgical planning. After the images are created, they are sent to your veterinarian or a veterinary specialist for review and interpretation.
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 evaluate your pet's anatomy in greater detail than we would otherwise be able to use standard x-rays.
CT scanners provide extremely detailed scans of the body's bony and soft tissue structures. The spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest or lungs are the most common areas of the body scanned by vets using CT technology. CT technology can also be used to examine 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 administered intravenously (IV) to your cat or dog, allowing us to see increased areas of blood flow in the body. This aids in the detection of cancer and inflammatory areas. PET scans in humans are used to provide doctors with a detailed picture of how the patient's tissues and organs are functioning. PET scans are most commonly used for cancer detection and monitoring.
What to Expect if Your Pet Has a PET/CT Scan?
It is critical for a CT scanner to produce high-quality images while the patient remains completely still during the scan. Simply telling a patient not to move and to occasionally hold their breath is sufficient in human medicine. However, this technique is not feasible for dogs and cats, necessitating heavy sedation or general anesthesia.
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.