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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for Dogs and Cats – FAQ

MRI offers detailed images of internal structures, revealing what X-rays and CT scans can't. Learn its uses and what to expect.

Written By MedVet Team


December 2, 2016

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most advanced imaging technique used in veterinary medicine. MRI provides detailed images of internal structures and reveals subtle abnormalities that cannot be identified with radiographs or CT scans.  

Why is MRI Useful? 

MRI is the only imaging technique that permits an accurate diagnosis of some diseases. It is particularly useful for imaging diseases of the brain and spinal cord.   

Some of the many uses for MRI include: 

  • Tracking nerve fibers of the brain and spine 
  • Typing brain tumors without the need for biopsy
  • Distinguishing diseased from normal tissue
  • Detecting tumors and assessment for malignancy
  • Determining if a tumor will be best treated with surgery or radiation therapy
  • Diagnosing disc or vascular issues
  • Reviewing malformations or inflammation

Is MRI Safe and Comfortable for My Pet?

MRI uses a strong magnet and radio waves to generate highly detailed images of internal anatomy. It is a safe, non-invasive procedure that does not cause your pet pain or discomfort, and, unlike a CT scan, no ionizing radiation is utilized.  

How Do I Prepare My Pet for an MRI?

MRI must be performed under general anesthesia to ensure your pet remains still. Because of this, do not give your pet any food for at least 12 hours before the procedure.  

What Can I Expect the Day of the Procedure?

If your pet is not already under our care, you will bring your pet to MedVet on the morning of the procedure. Our residency-trained compassionate team includes a veterinary anesthesiologist who will answer any questions you may have and admit your pet for the day. 

MRIs generally take several hours as your pet will be undergoing anesthesia and monitored during and after the procedure. The specific time, however, varies by patient. We will provide you with an estimated time of completion when you check-in for their appointment.  

A mild sedative may be administered to calm your pet. Small amounts of fur will be clipped from the leg to allow the placement of the catheter. A catheter is used to administer anesthetic agents and intravenous fluids. Fur is also clipped from the chest where an ECG (electrocardiogram) pad will be placed, allowing us to monitor your pet’s heart rhythm throughout the procedure. 

Following the MRI your pet will be moved to a warm, comfortable recovery area. Your pet may go home once completely awakened from the anesthesia. When your pet is discharged, MedVet caregivers will discuss at-home care. Our team will complete a written report with the results of the MRI within 24 hours of the procedure and share them with your family veterinarian for follow-up.

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Pet Care Resources

For ways to ensure your pet lives a happier, healthier life, visit our Pet Care Resources library.

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