Information for Pet Owners - Veterinary Referral and Emergency Centre

Diagnostic Imaging for Pet Owners

Diagnostic imaging in veterinary medicine includes all of those services which people are familiar with in their own hospitals. So along with the humble X-ray, first discovered in Germany by Willhelm Roentgen over 100 years ago, we now have ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

These have hugely expanded our ability to see inside our patients without having to take them to surgery. Now, things we cannot see or can see very poorly with regular X-rays may be visible clearly with these new modalities. No one method solves all problems however. That would simply be too good to be true. Each has its own niche, its own special abilities, strengths and weaknesses. We are here to decide which is the best method for your pet. In time of trouble, you can depend on us to see the way through.


This is frequently the first port of call for many problems and disorders.


A nice belly-rub! Most people are well aware of the use of ultrasound in looking at babies in their mummy’s tummy. We do that also (kittens and puppies, not humans!) but there is much, much more to see both in the abdomen and elsewhere! Look at these commonly-seen conditions that we often evaluate with ultrasound –

Abdomen: cancer and other abdominal masses, haematuria (bloody urine), dysuria (difficulty urinating), vomiting, diarrhoea, foreign bodies, elevated kidney or liver enzymes, pancreatitis, hepatitis, hyperadrenocorticism, portosystemic shunt, pregnancy, peritoneal effusion (free fluid in the abdomen)

Chest: echocardiography (heart scan), pleural or pericardial effusion (fluid in the chest or the sac surrounding the heart), lung mass or consolidation, mediastinal mass, sternal lymph node enlargement, diaphragmatic hernia

Musculoskeletal: foreign bodies, abscesses, muscle or ligament tears, joint or bursa effusion (swelling)

Eye: detached retina, retrobulbar or ocular masses, lens luxation or rupture

Biopsies: Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration and Trucut biopsies

MRI Scanning

MRI is most commonly used for examining soft tissue structures such as the brain and spinal cord. It is also very helpful in evaluating some joints such as the shoulder and stifle (knee) as well as the orbit, middle and inner ear, nasal passages and sinuses.

There is some cross-over between MRI and CT and our specialists will be happy to advise which is best for your patient or pet.

CT Scanning

CT Scanning is frequently used to check for tumours and see if they have spread to other parts of the body. The chest and abdomen are most frequently evaluated in this way often with the use of a dye or “contrast agent” to help identify abnormalities. CT is also used to evaluate the location, size and extent of masses prior to surgery or radiation therapy.

Elbow CT is common in young dogs suspected of having elbow dysplasia, complex fractures, pelvic tumours and the evaluation of vascular anomalies such as portosystemic shunts and the search for foreign bodies for example.


Teleradiology is the sending of patient’s x-ray, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images over the Internet or a local area network (LAN) for example. Images may be sent directly from the diagnostic imaging department to a consultant’s office in the same building or indeed to a vet’s computer in another city or country.