Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an advanced diagnostic tool used by vets to diagnose a range of health issues in dogs from ruptured ligaments to brain tumors. Today, our Bonita Springs vets discuss MRIs for dogs and how they can help your pup.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs) has been readily available to help diagnose human health concerns since the early 1980s, but it is only recently that veterinary MRIs have become more widely used.
Why MRIs Are Used
Although it can be obvious when our pets are experiencing pain or discomfort, we aren't able to understand exactly what they feel without diagnostic examinations and testing to find the cause of the issue. Veterinary MRI scans allow us to evaluate the inside of your dog's body in a non-invasive way.
MRI scans can provide your veterinarian with high-resolution, detailed images of your pet's soft tissues including the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons, and abdominal organs. For many types of soft tissue injuries or diseases, the use of veterinary MRIs can often give a more detailed image of your dog's body than other diagnostic imaging tools such as X-rays or CT Scans.
Diagnosing Conditions Using MRIs
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms such as limping, lameness, seizures, joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, an MRI might be recommended to help diagnose the cause of your dog's symptoms. MRI scans can be used to help diagnose a wide range of conditions in dogs including:
- Spinal disc tumor, herniated discs, or stenosis
- Brain tumor, inflammation, or abscess
- Musculoskeletal diseases and injuries (e.g. ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, shoulder instability)
- Conditions affecting the abdomen as indicated by organ enlargement or tumor
The Veterinary MRI Process
When it comes to MRIs, it takes the same amount of time for both pets and people -- between 45 minutes to an hour. As the success of the MRI requires the patient to remain still, one can imagine the impossible task of trying to calm a dog enough to stay still in a strange machine for up to an hour! To reduce the risk of stressing your dog, and to allow the veterinarian and vet techs to capture the best quality images, a general anesthetic is used on dogs undergoing an MRI scan. Vets typically recommend blood tests and X-rays be done before the MRI to help ensure that your pet is strong enough to be put under general anesthetic.
When MRIs Are Not Ideal
The need for a general anesthetic is one of the primary drawbacks of MRI for veterinary diagnostics. Some dogs may not be strong enough to go under anesthetic, which means that MRI is not an option for them as a diagnostic tool.
Although MRI is particularly useful in diagnosing brain, spinal cord, and ligament issues, other conditions are better detected using other diagnostic imaging tools such as CT and radiography (X-rays). MRI may be less helpful when diagnosing internal organs, fractures, or head trauma in dogs.
Another drawback of MRI is the cost, which can be prohibitive for some pet parents. If your dog needs an MRI, the cost could potentially run to the low thousands. Despite this, pet insurance plans will typically cover the cost of diagnostic testing such as MRI, (check with your insurer to see if MRI is part of your pet's coverage).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.