Dog X-Ray Procedures Explained

Dog x-ray is an important diagnostic tool for today's veterinarian. X-rays are commonly used to identify the area and extent of a bone break, to determine the stage of pregnancy (and number of pups), to identify potential stomach problems and obstructions, to find and identify tumors. Because they are a common dog procedure in veterinary practices today, it is important to know and understand the steps involved in radiographic imaging.

Prior to X-Rays

A single radiographic session is not hazardous for the dog, but depending upon the dog's personality, the extent of inju,ry and the area being x-rayed, a sedative or anesthesia may be administered. While not always necessary, the anesthesia allows the veterinary staff to move the dog into proper positioning without having to risk poor quality images (or having to retake film because the dog moved). It is imperative that the dog remains still once positioned in order to produce optimal images.

Using a special ruler, the area of concern is measured in order to determine the thickness, and thus the length of exposure necessary to produce a good quality image. The dog is then positioned on the x-ray table in order to get an optimal view of the dog's broken bone (or other area of concern).

X-ray Procedures

A plastic cassette containing the film is placed under the target area. The cassette prevents scratches or impurities from getting on the film and distorting the image produced. Veterinarians use different cassette sizes depending upon the size and shape of the affected area. The x-ray equipment is on a mechanical "arm" and is positioned over the area. The ray is triggered, creating images on the film in varying shades of gray based upon tissue density. The densest of tissues appear white on the film.

Repositioning the dog and taking additional film allows the veterinary staff to get multiple views. Multiple pictures reveal images of a break, tumor, or other health issue not visible in one image, but clear and distinct in another. The process of shooting the film takes between 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon how many images are taken. Exposed film is then processed to reveal the images, taking anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. The veterinarian reviews the films to diagnose the problem, and create a recommendation for treatment.

Special X-rays

While the above processes are the standard in producing diagnostic images, there are other, more in-depth x-ray procedures that take a considerably longer amount of time, and create specifically detailed images.

One such example is a barium x-ray, used to get a look at abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract. This procedure also involves having the dog ingest a barium "milkshake" (a chalky liquid) that adheres to the intestines, revealing potential problem areas such as tumors, ulcers, and polyps. In these kinds of procedures, a veterinarian may call in a radiology specialist to examine and interpret the films.

Diagnostic imaging has become an invaluable tool in treating the canine population. X-rays reveal what cannot be seen on an external examination, providing detailed insight and a path to more effective treatment.