An MRI is not just for people, MRI’s are also used in veterinary medicine. While not as common as X-ray and Ultrasound, MRI can be performed on our furry friends as well.

MRI has been available for humans since the 1970s, but only in recent years has it been used for pets.

When performing an MRI on a dog, anesthesia is required as pets (as well as people) must be very still for the procedure. Once the anesthesia takes effect, the dog is then placed on a table and moves slowly through the MRI machine, which is a circular shape. This usually takes more than an hour to complete which means your dog will be under anesthesia for some time.

Many dog owners do not like their pets being “put under”. In this case, the anesthesia ensures that your dog is comfortable and does not experience any claustrophobia or anxiety. When performing an MRI on a dog, injection of contrast material is used. Before an MRI is performed on a dog, a vet will order a blood test to check for kidney or liver dysfunction that might increase the risks of anesthesia.

MRIs on dogs are usually performed at a specialist veterinary office or a veterinary college after a referral from your dog’s regular vet.  This can be very expensive and often ranges from $1000-$3000.

In both dogs and humans, MRI reads the differences in tissue density to reveal tumors and lesions that CT scans might not pick up.

Here are several conditions in dogs that an MRI might be used to diagnose:

  • Brain and spinal tumors
  • Disc herniation
  • Seizures
  • Joint problems
  • Sinus infections and growths
  • Causes of personality changes
  • Other neurological symptoms
  • Reasons for paralysis
  • Brain hemorrhage

MRI procedures have been proven safe for dogs. Unlike x-ray and CT scans, MRI does not use radiation. When performing an MRI on a dog, the biggest risk involved is the use of anesthesia, otherwise it is a perfectly safe and effective diagnostic tool.