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MRI in Cats: What Is It & Why Might Your Cat Need It?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs) can help diagnose a range of health issues in cats from a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament to brain tumors, and more. Today, our Bonita Springs vets discuss how an MRI can detect a variety of health issues in cats.

Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRIs have been readily available to help diagnose human health conditions since the early 1980s, but it wasn't until recently that veterinary MRIs became more widely used.

They can now be used to detect a variety of illnesses and conditions in the veterinary world, and have become a valuable resource when caring for household pets.

Why Veterinary MRIs Are Necessary

While it can often be easy to see that a pet is experiencing pain or discomfort, because our cats can't explain what they feel, we rely on diagnostic examinations and testing to find the root of the problem. Veterinary MRI scans allow us to evaluate the inside of your cat's body in a non-invasive way.

MRI scans can provide your veterinarian with high-resolution, detailed images of your pet's soft tissues such as the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons, and abdominal organs. When it comes to many soft tissue injuries or diseases, Veterinary MRI often provides a more detailed picture of your cat's body than other diagnostic imaging tools such as X-rays or CT Scans. 

Conditions That MRIs Can Diagnose 

If your cat is suffering from symptoms such as limping, lameness, seizures, joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, your vet may recommend an MRI to help diagnose the cause of your cat's symptoms. MRI scans can be used to help diagnose a wide range of conditions in cats including:

  • Spinal disc tumor, herniated discs, or stenosis
  • Brain tumor, inflammation, or abscess
  • Stroke
  • Musculoskeletal diseases and injuries such as ruptured cranial cruciate ligament or shoulder instability
  • Abdomen conditions indicated by organ enlargement or a tumor

The MRI Process

For pets and people, an MRI scan takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour and requires the patient to be absolutely still for the entire time. As you can imagine, trying to coax a cat to stay completely still, in a strange machine, for 45 minutes would be an impossible task. For that reason, a general anesthetic is used on cats 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.

Possible Drawbacks of MRI Imaging for Cats

The need for general anesthetic is one of the primary drawbacks of MRI for veterinary diagnostics. Some cats may not be strong enough to go under anesthetic, meaning that MRI will not be possible for those pets.

While 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 cats.

Another drawback of MRI is the cost. The cost of MRI for cats varies based on several factors including your geographical location, the size of your pet, and more. To obtain an accurate estimate of the cost of your pet's MRI speak to your veterinary team. Most hospitals are happy to provide pet parents with a detailed estimate and answer any questions they may have.

Pet insurance plans will typically cover the cost of diagnostic testing such as MRI,  but it's important to 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.

Has your cat suffered an emergency or do you think they may require an MRI? Contact our Bonita Springs vets right away.

Our 24/7 Emergency Care in Bonita Springs 

Contact (239) 992-8387