A CT scan is a series of images, kind of like an x-ray. However, it gets over 3,000 images as the machine rotates around your pet. It compiles those images all together, providing a full image of everything inside your pet. It's a very useful diagnostic tool that we've been using for almost two years now with great benefits.
CT scans can be used for various situations. One of my favorites is for skulls of pets, like cats that have chronic upper respiratory issues or ear issues. We can actually see deep inside into the middle ear canal and beyond to see what's there. If it's a lesion, a polyp, or an infection, it provides us with a better diagnosis. We also use it for any masses. If there's something in the abdomen, we can use the CT scan for surgical planning and have a better idea before a doctor goes in for surgery.
In a CT scan, the pet has to lie on the table as the machine rotates around them. Since our pets can't hold their breath on command, we have to put them under full anesthesia and hold their breath for them. This process is called a breath hold. Your pet stays with us for about two to three hours, during which they are given IV catheter fluids, made sleepy, and then scanned. The scan typically takes anywhere from five minutes to 20 minutes, depending on how many areas we're scanning. They have to be on IV fluids for about an hour after the scan because we inject contrast to highlight anything we want to look at. Most pets go home right after that, usually a little sleepy, or might have to urinate a bit more from the IV fluids, but most people report their pets go home without any after effects whatsoever.
Typically, we send the scans off to a board certified radiologist who reads these for us. If it's something simple, like a dental scan or a core procedure, that doctor will look at it right there in the house and decide the best plan of action. However, for more extensive scans, we send those off and it usually takes two to three days to get the radiologist report back.
Most of the time, all you need to do is withhold food from your pet for 12 hours. Water is fine on the morning of the scan. If we are scanning the abdomen and we're looking at kidneys, bladder, or anything in the gut, they prefer an empty gut. So in some cases, we might have to give an enema to get everything cleaned out. But for the most part, there's really no different preparation than what you would do for a surgery.
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