To help you understand why your pet may need a CT scan or PET scan our Rock Hill specialist 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 Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Rock Hill.
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 body work 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 which 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", works by producing multiple individual images or "slices" throughout a region of interest in the body through the use of radiation (x-rays) and a computer. A common comparison to an image produced by a CT scanner is individual slices of bread that make up a complete loaf. The CT machine produces two-dimensional slices of a section of your pet’s anatomy and then reconfigures them into a complete image we can view. These slices can also be used to create three-dimensional reconstructions that can be very useful for things like surgical planning. Once the images are produced, they are sent to a veterinary specialist to review and interpret.
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 - detail that we would otherwise not be able to see with using standard x-rays.
CT scanners provide excellent detail of bony and soft tissue structures in the body. The most common areas of the body we image here at Carolina Veterinary Specialists using CT technology include the spine, the nasal cavity, the inner ear, bones/joints, and the chest/lungs. We can also use the CT machine to assess lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.
A CT scan can also be combined with a contrast agent that is given to your pet intravenously (IV), which allows us to see increased areas of blood flow in the body. This aids in the detection of cancer and areas of inflammation. In people Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans are used to give doctors a detailed view of how the patient's tissues and organs are working. PET scans are most commonly used to detect and monitor cancer.
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.
Your pet's vital signs are closely monitored while under anesthesia throughout the entire CT. The CT scanner at our hospital is very efficient, and a typical CT scan only takes a short time. Following the CT, our veterinary specialists will interpret your pet's images and produce a detailed report with findings and diagnostic recommendations for your primary care veterinarian or the specialist vet that 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.