Companion Animal

What to Expect When Your Pet Needs an X-Ray

Mar 30 • 2 minute read

Veterinarians frequently use x-rays to gather more information about your cat or dog’s health. These diagnostic images allow your vet to see your pet’s bones, tissues, and organs to help them determine problems and devise a treatment plan. Bladder stones, broken bones, and swallowed foreign objects are just a few of the issues that can be revealed by x-rays.

If your vet has recommended an x-ray for your pet, here’s what you can expect:


Your vet will explain what parts of your pet they’ll be x-raying and what information they’re looking for. You don’t need to do anything to prepare your cat or dog for an x-ray.

The Procedure

If you’ve ever gotten an x-ray, you know it’s a painless process. The same is true for your pet. The only challenge may be getting your pet to stay still enough to allow your vet to obtain clear images, especially if they’re anxious or in pain. In some cases, your pet may need sedation so they’ll be able to keep still. It may also be necessary if your pet’s muscles need to be relaxed, or when the x-ray will look at their spine, skull, or teeth.

During the x-ray, your pet will be on a table. A veterinary technician will use an x-ray machine to target specific areas of interest. They use film or digital technology to save images. The x-ray will take only about ten minutes.

Specialized X-rays

In some cases, your vet will need to see your pet’s soft tissues. A regular x-ray may not provide adequate images, so they may need to use a specialized x-ray technique called a contrast procedure. Your vet will give your pet a dye either intravenously or by mouth. This dye will then collect in specific organs, which will then be easier to examine via x-ray.


X-rays do use radiation, but it’s at low levels. Occasional x-rays are safe for your pet, and the of aiding the vet with a diagnosis outweigh the limited radiation exposure. If you’re concerned about the safety of your pet’s x-ray, ask your vet to explain why this diagnostic test is warranted, what information they hope to learn, and whether any other tests will yield the same information without radiation.

After Your Pet’s X-Rays

After your vet examines the images from your pet’s x-ray, they’ll explain the results to you. If the x-rays yield enough information, your vet will tell you about what they were able to verify or rule out and any necessary treatment. In some cases, additional imaging such as an MRI or a CT scan may be necessary.

Pet X-Rays Are Vital to Vet Care

An x-ray is a quick, safe procedure that’s painless for your pet. It gives your vet valuable information about the location and nature of a problem. This information lets your vet decide on a treatment plan, if needed, or order additional tests if necessary. Your vet’s goal is to provide the right treatment for your pet, and with an x-ray, the vet has a far greater chance of determining what they need. Don’t hesitate to speak up and ask questions to learn more about pet x-rays and the part they play in your pet’s care.

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