Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

CT Scans vs. PET Scans

To help you understand why your pet may need a CT scan or PET scan, our Rock Springs vets explain what PET/CT technology is used for and what you should expect when you bring your pet for diagnostic imaging. 

Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging

Diagnostic imaging plays an enormous role in the diagnosis and treatment of disease in veterinary medicine. The advancements made in technology and imaging over the past years have aided tremendously in helping doctors diagnose and treat various conditions that may have been proven difficult before.

What is the difference between a PET scan vs CT scan?

A CT scan creates a detailed. still image of your animal's organs, bones and tissues. A PET scan, on the other hand, shows doctors how the tissues in the body work on a cellular level.

  • CT and PET use different materials: CT scans pass X-rays through the body to create images. Whereas A PET scan uses a radioactive material that emits energy which can be detected by a special camera.
  • A PET scan takes longer. Where a CT scan can be performed in minutes making it an excellent tool for emergency situations when a vet needs to act fast. A PET scan can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours to complete.
  • There is no radiation remaining in your pet's body following a CT scan, whereas after a PET scan a small amount of radiation may stay in the body for a short period of time.
  • PET scans show molecular activity that can help in the very earliest detection of disease. This is why a PET scan is a highly reliable tool for detecting cancer in people. A CT scan will show signs of an issue after the disease has begun to change the structure of the tissues or organs.

How does a CT machine work?

Computed tomographic imaging, also known as a "CT" or "cat scan", works by producing multiple individual images or "slices" throughout a region of interest in the body through the use of radiation and a computer. The CT machine produces two-dimensional slices of a section of your pet’s anatomy and then reconfigures them into a complete image vets can view. These slices can also be used to create three-dimensional reconstructions that can be very useful for things like surgical planning. Once the images are produced, they are sent to a veterinary specialist to review and interpret. 

What are PET/CT scans used for in pets and how is it beneficial? 

Below, we'll compare and contrast CT scans and PET scans.

CT Scans

The high-resolution images produced by the CT machine help to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail – detail that vets would otherwise not be able to see with using standard X-rays. 

CT scanners provide excellent detail of bony and soft tissue structures in the body. The most common areas of the body to image include the spine, the nasal cavity, the inner ear, bones/joints, and the chest/lungs. CT machines can also be used to assess lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.

PET Scans

A CT scan can also be combined with a contrast agent that is given to your pet intravenously (IV), which allows vets to see increased areas of blood flow in the body. This aids in the detection of cancer and areas of inflammation. PET scans are most commonly used to detect and monitor cancer.

Do all cancers show up on a PET Scan?

PET scans are not always able to detect all types of cancer, as some cancers may not have high enough metabolic activity to be visible on the scan. Additionally, certain types of cancer may require other imaging tests, or biopsies, for accurate diagnosis. 

What to Expect if Your Pet Has a PET/CT Scan

For the CT machine to produce high-quality images, it is very important for the patient being imaged to be as still as possible while the scan is taking place, so heavy sedation or general anesthesia is necessary. 

Your pet's vital signs are closely monitored while under anesthesia throughout the entire CT scan, and a typical CT scan only takes 15 to 30 minutes.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes only. Mountainaire Animal Clinic cannot offer CT scans at this time.

Has your vet told you that your dog or cat requires advanced diagnostic imaging? Contact Mountainaire Animal Clinic today. We have many different types of diagnostic and imaging tests available for your furry friend.

Looking for a vet in Rock Springs?

Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Rock Springs cats and dogs. Get in touch today to request an appointment for your pet.

Contact Us

(307) 382-6698 Contact