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Types of Diagnostic Testing for Pets

Veterinary diagnostic tests are an exceptional tool used by our Fort Worth veterinarians to help us pinpoint the cause, extent, or seriousness of your pet's illness or injury. Depending on your pet's condition, the type of pet diagnostic test used will vary. Below are a few of the tests that your vet may recommend to help diagnose or treat your dog or cat.

Radiography (X-Rays)

X-rays are a valuable diagnostic tool for tests. They enable veterinarians to detect problems such as broken bones, bladder stones, swallowed foreign objects, and others. They can also detect tumors, pregnancies, and enlarged organs, all of which can lead to the diagnosis of cancer or heart disease.

Because X-rays do not provide a detailed view of a pet's organs, tissues, or ligaments, other diagnostic imaging techniques, such as MRI and ultrasound, are preferred.

X-rays are non-invasive, painless, and considered extremely safe for dogs and cats. They only use very low levels of radiation, and pregnant pets are unaffected. Sedation is occasionally required to obtain a clear image of the body. However, sedation may not be required if the dog or cat is calm, not in pain, and can lie in a comfortable position.


Ultrasounds are a type of imaging technology used to diagnose or assess problems with a pet's internal organs, as well as to monitor their pregnancy. They are non-invasive and can be used to diagnose and treat medical problems such as cysts and tumors.

Different preparations are required for ultrasounds on different areas of your pet's body. For abdominal ultrasounds, you may be asked to fast your pet for 8 to 12 hours. If possible, you should keep your cat or dog from urinating for 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound too.

To obtain clear images, the area to be examined will likely be shaved. While most pets will remain still and cooperative throughout the ultrasound, some will require sedation.

PET/CT Scans

CT and PET scans require your pet to be completely still. Thus, your veterinarian will likely administer general anesthesia. Vital signs are monitored, and the scan is quick. A specialist interprets the images, and a detailed report is sent to the veterinarian who is treating the pet.

Computed Tomography - CT Scans

CT scans generate high-resolution images of a dog or cat's bony and soft tissue structures, such as the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs. They can also be used to examine lymph nodes, thyroid glands, abdominal organs, skull/brain, and vascular structures.

Positron Emission Tomography - PET Scans

This is a CT scan with a contrast agent administered intravenously (IV) to your pet. This enables veterinarians to identify areas of increased blood flow in the animal's body. PET scans can detect cancer and areas of inflammation.


Blood tests can assist with disease or illness detection, identification, diagnosis, and treatment. Blood tests are also required during routine exams for healthy pets in order to establish normal baseline values. 

A complete blood count (CBC) and a complete blood chemistry panel, which includes electrolytes and urinalysis, are two commonly used tests for diagnosing anemia, inflammation, infection, immune system response, and blood clotting ability. The chemistry panel and electrolytes provide information to your veterinarian about your pet's liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Blood tests can also detect and identify complex problems with a pet’s internal systems, such as hormonal and chemical responses.


A urinalysis is a simple diagnostic test that measures the physical and chemical properties of urine. It is primarily used to evaluate the kidney and urinary system, but it can also reveal problems with other organs. All pets over the age of eight should have a urinalysis every year. A urinalysis may be recommended if your pet is drinking more water, urinating more frequently, or there is visible blood in the urine.

Fecal Exams

Fecal exams diagnose and treat a wide range of infections that may be endangering your pet's health. Fecal exams help veterinarians detect intestinal parasites, such as hookworms and roundworms. These can cause discomfort and irritability in pets, leading to more serious problems. 

Because parasites can go undetected and infect other pets or people in the house, examining feces is the most reliable way to detect them.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging - MRI

MRIs have been used to diagnose human health issues since the early 1980s, but they have only recently gained popularity in the veterinary field.

MRI scans can detect injuries and diseases by generating high-resolution images of soft tissues, such as the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons, and abdominal organs. They provide more detail than other diagnostic imaging tools like X-rays and CT scans.

If your dog or cat is limping, lame, having seizures, suffering from joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or paralysis, an MRI may be recommended to help diagnose the underlying cause of their symptoms.

Dog and cat MRIs take 45 minutes to an hour to complete. To ensure success, a general anesthetic is administered prior to the scan. Vets recommend that blood tests and X-rays be performed prior to the MRI to ensure that the pet is strong enough to be put under general anesthesia.

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.

Are you curious about diagnostic imaging for pets? Does your dog or cat have an upcoming test? Contact our Fort Worth veterinarians today for more information or to book an appointment.

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