To help you understand why your pet 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 bring your pet in for diagnostic imaging.
Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging
Diagnostic imaging plays an enormous 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 our veterinary specialists here at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center in Tigard.
What is the difference between a PET scan vs. a 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 reveal molecular activity, which can aid in the early detection of disease. This is why a PET scan is such an effective tool for detecting cancer in humans. A CT scan will detect problems after the disease has begun to alter 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. The images are then sent to a veterinary specialist for review and interpretation.
What are PET/CT scans used for in pets and how is it beneficial?
The high-resolution images produced by the CT machine help us to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail - a detail that we would otherwise not be able to see by using standard X-rays.
CT scanners provide excellent detail of the body's bony and soft tissue structures. The spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs are the most common areas of the body imaged using CT technology at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center. The CT machine can also be used to examine lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.
A CT scan can also be combined with a contrast agent administered intravenously (IV) to your pet, 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?
In order for the CT machine to produce high-quality images, it is very important for the patient being imaged to be as still as possible while the scan is taking place. In human medicine, simply telling the patient to not move and to occasionally hold their breath is sufficient. Unfortunately, this technique is not feasible for dogs and cats, so heavy sedation or general anesthesia is necessary.
Throughout the CT, your pet's vital signs are closely monitored while he or she is sedated. Our hospital's CT scanner is very efficient, and a typical CT scan only takes a few minutes. Following the CT scan, our veterinary specialists will interpret your pet's images and create a detailed report with findings and diagnostic recommendations for your primary care veterinarian or the specialist veterinarian who will be handling your pet's treatment.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.