Everything You Need To Know About X-Rays For Dogs

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Since 1895, x-rays have been used to identify everything from broken bones and tumors to bullets and other foreign objects. They paint a clear picture for doctors and vets to utilize before deciding on the best course of treatment. If your dog has an injury, falls ill, or displays unusual symptoms, an x-ray may be taken to help identify the problem. This article will explain what conditions and ailments x-rays are used for, run you through the x-ray process, and then give you a breakdown of all the associated costs.

What Are X-rays Used For?

You probably think of x-rays being used to identify fractured and broken bones following injury, and while they can, they can also be used to diagnose a whole host of other issues. They can paint a clear picture of organs, tissue, bladder stones, and tumors. They can even reveal pregnancies!

They penetrate so deeply that no internal structure is out of reach. They are particularly effective at identifying intestinal blockages and are used frequently when dogs are suspected of swallowing a foreign object.

However, as effective as they are, there are some objects that x-rays do not display so clearly. Plastic, for example, can be difficult to see, and some small tumors can blend in with the tissue making them harder to detect. That is why the VCA Animal Hospital recommends using computed tomography (CT), ultrasounds, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in some instances.

The X-Ray Process

If you suspect a problem, you should visit your local vet, who will be able to recommend an x-ray. Once your vet suggests an x-ray, the process itself will be as follows: A plastic cassette (containing the film or sensor) will be placed underneath the desired area. The cassette will also prevent scratches and damage to the film. The x-ray equipment is usually on a mechanical arm and will be placed over the problem area.

It is important your dog stays still during the x-ray, so in some instances, your dog will need to be sedated. Once ready, the x-ray will be triggered, where it will take images of the area in a variety of grey shades, but dense tissue will come up white.

Your dog may need to be re-positioned to allow all the necessary angles to be covered. The process itself usually takes around 10 minutes. Once the x-rays have been taken, the film will be then processed in less than half an hour, and the images passed on to your vet. Digital x-rays are generally ready for viewing instantly.


The cost of X-rays vary hugely depending on the individual case, the number of shots that need to be taken, the veterinary hospital, and whether anesthesia is required. It is also worth noting that if you have an x-ray at an emergency veterinary hospital you may be charged up to double the price.

In general, a single x-ray costs between $50-$125. Additional x-rays usually cost between $25-$75. The initial visit to your vet may cost between $50-$100.

But the main factor to keep in mind is the cost of anesthetic. The Veterinary Anaesthesia E-Book gives a thorough breakdown of the costs associated with anesthetics. But in general, if one is required, it could cost anywhere up to $225 for large dogs, and between $50-$150 for smaller dogs.

Take Home Points

X-Rays are extremely useful in helping to identify a whole range of problems, from foreign objects and broken bones, to tumors and intestinal blockages. The process itself is usually straightforward and your local vet will always be able to walk you through the steps. Once the x-rays have been taken, the images are usually processed in less than half an hour (even faster if digital). The cost of x-rays varies depending on a number of factors, but the biggest factors are the number of images required and whether there is a need for an anaesthetic.

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