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PortWatch

August 16, 2013

Paw Prints: Seeing your pet from the inside out

The sparkling eyes, the wispy whiskers, the cute ears and the happy grin. You surely have images of your pet captured on photographs, hanging on your wall or tucked in your purse. Don’t you love to gaze at those pictures? Looking from the outside in, you know what makes your Fido or Fluffy tick. You can almost see into your pet’s heart.

What if we really do have to see into your pet’s heart? What if something is wrong, like a heart murmur or difficulty breathing or exercising? What if something else is sick inside your pet’s body, something that blood and urine tests cannot diagnose? What’s the next step to help your pet?

Pet owners often think that lab tests will give the much-needed answers to diagnose their sick pet. In some cases, blood and urine tests tell us what we need to know. This is important, because an accurate diagnosis opens the door to the best treatment options.

Sometimes, though, we literally have to look inside our patients to obtain information that will guide the treatment plan for our little furry friends. We do this through a process called imaging.

Diagnostic imaging means just what it implies. It’s a noninvasive way to look inside our patients. Diagnostic imaging includes radiographs, ultrasound, CT scan and MRI.

Radiographs, or “X-rays,” are the most common form of imaging and are available at all veterinary hospitals. Radiographs use radiation to form shadow-like pictures.

Traditional radiographs produce pictures on large films. However, progressive veterinary hospitals are following the human hospital lead and are replacing their old-fashioned film with computerized images. These digital pictures are more diagnostic because they show more detail of structures inside the patient. As with any digital photography, computer programs allow image enhancement, enlargement of certain areas and contrast change. As an added bonus, digital images can be sent electronically to radiology specialists for quick review. That’s a big plus for Fido, Fluffy and you.

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