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MRI in Cats: What are they, and when would your cat need one?

Diagnostic imaging is vital to monitoring a pet's internal health and is often used to diagnose health issues. This can include the use of MRIs. Here, our vet specialists in Springfield discuss the use of MRIs for cats, when they are used and what they show us.

What is a veterinary MRI for cats?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been widely used to help diagnose human health issues since the early 1980s, but veterinary MRIs have only recently become more widely used.

MRI scans can provide your veterinarian with high-resolution, detailed images of soft tissues in your cat, such as the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons, and abdominal organs. Veterinary MRIs can provide a more detailed image of your cat's body than other diagnostic imaging tools, such as X-rays or CT scans, for many types of soft tissue injuries or diseases.

If your cat is limping, lame, having seizures, or experiencing joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, an MRI may be recommended to help diagnose the cause of your pet's symptoms.

MRIs for cats usually take 45 minutes to an hour to complete. For an MRI to be successful, the patient must be completely still. A general anesthetic will be administered to your cat before the MRI scan to ensure its success. Blood tests and X-rays are typically recommended before the MRI to ensure your cat is healthy enough to be sedated.

When are MRIs used on cats?

For cats, an MRI may be useful in the following situations:

  • To identify brain and spinal cord issues
  • Examination of the nasal cavity, sinuses, and ears
  • To better visualize internal organ abnormalities
  • In cases where a simple X-ray or ultrasound did not reveal enough information to make a diagnosis

MRI is noninvasive and does not use radiation, so it is considered very safe. It can provide critical diagnostic information for your cat's condition, assisting you in determining what is wrong with it.

However, they are quite expensive because the equipment used is highly technical. An MRI is usually a last resort, used only if other diagnostic imaging techniques are ineffective.

How is an MRI performed on cats?

An anesthetized cat is placed on a moving table before being placed inside a tube-shaped machine. An MRI on cats usually takes 10-15 minutes, and the pet's vitals are monitored throughout. Images are displayed in real-time for a veterinary specialist to assess and record for later viewing.

What is the difference between MRI and CT scans for cats?

CT scans produce images using X-rays, whereas MRI does not. Soft tissue MRI images can be clearer and more detailed than CT scan images. CT scans frequently produce better images of bony structures than MRIs.

Your veterinarian will recommend which test for your cat based on the structure to be examined and what the doctor hopes to discover.

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.

Is your cat experiencing symptoms of a complex issue that may require advanced diagnostics? Please ask your vet for a referral to be seen by our Springfield vet specialists.

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The Regional Veterinary Referral Center is accepting new patients in emergency situations or by referral! Our experienced specialists are passionate about the health of Springfield pets. Contact us today to learn more.

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