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MRI in Cats: What Is It & Why Might Your Cat Need It?

MRI in Cats: What Is It & Why Might Your Cat Need It?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can help veterinarians diagnose many health issues in cats, from a herniated disc to brain tumors and more. In this post, our Gaithersburg vets describe the process involved in an MRI scan and its potential drawbacks. 

Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) 

While MRIs have been readily available to assist in diagnosing human health conditions since the early 1980s, veterinary MRIs haven't been more widely used until recently. Depending on the purpose of the MRI scan, the brain, ligaments, spinal cord, abdominal organs or tendons may be captured in a detailed, high-resolution image.

Why Veterinary MRIs Are Helpful 

Though you and your veterinarian may be able to tell if your pet is experiencing pain or discomfort, we rely on diagnostic examinations and testing to get to the root of the problem since your cat can't explain their symptoms and how they're feeling. With non-invasive veterinary MRI scans, we can detect many soft tissue injuries or diseases in your pet's body. Veterinary MRIs often produce a more detailed picture of your cat's body than other diagnostic imaging tools such as X-rays or CT scans.

Conditions That MRIs Can Help Diagnose

Is your cat suffering from back pain, neck pain, joint pain, lameness, limping, or even paralysis? Your vet may recommend an MRI to help diagnose the cause of your cat's pain or discomfort. MRI scans can be used to help diagnose numerous conditions in cats, including: 

  • A brain tumor, abscess, or inflammation
  • Abdominal conditions indicated by a tumor or enlargement of organs
  • Musculoskeletal injuries and diseases such as shoulder instability or ruptured cranial cruciate ligament
  • Spinal Disc tumor, stenosis (narrowing of spinal cord or nerves), or herniated disc

The MRI Process 

For pets and people, an MRI scan takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour and requires the patient to be absolutely still for the entire time. As you may imagine, trying to coax a cat to stay completely still in a strange machine for 45 minutes would be impossible. Therefore, a general anesthetic is used on cats undergoing an MRI scan. Vets typically recommend blood tests and X-rays be done before the MRI to help ensure that your pet is healthy enough to be put under general anesthetic.

Possible Drawbacks of MRI Imaging for Cats

The need for general anesthetic is one of the primary drawbacks of MRI for veterinary diagnostics. Some cats may not be healthy enough to for anesthesia, meaning that an MRI will not be an option for those pets.

While MRI is particularly useful in diagnosing brain, spinal cord, and ligament issues, some conditions are better detected using other diagnostic imaging tools such as CT and radiography (X-rays). MRI may be less helpful when diagnosing internal organs, fractures, or head trauma in cats.

Another drawback of MRI is the cost. The cost of MRI for cats varies based on several factors including your geographical location, the size of your pet, and more. To obtain an accurate estimate of the cost of your pet's MRI, speak to your veterinary team at Veterinary Referral Associates. We will be happy to explain why an MRI is being recommended, provide a detailed estimate for this diagnostic imaging procedure and any others, and address any questions you may have.

Pet insurance plans will typically cover the cost of diagnostic testing such as MRI,  but it's important to check with your insurer to see if an MRI will be covered as part of the plan.

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.

Do you have questions about MRI scans or other diagnostic imaging technologies? Contact our Gaithersburg vets today.  

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Referral Associates is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Gaithersburg companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact (301) 926-3300