Everything to Know about Cat X-Ray

By Julie •  Updated: 07/05/22 •  14 min read
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Is your cat or kitten playful and active? Our feline fur babies fly by in a flash, sneak into hidden spaces, climb, jump and more! They’re always on the move, especially older kittens and younger cats. When it comes to keeping your cat out of harm, sometimes there’s no way to keep them still and safe in our laps. A cat’s nature is to be active. Our small daredevils will make a bad jump or take a fall, which may lead to injuries that need to be dealt with by a veterinarian.

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What is a Cat X-Ray?

An x-ray (also known as radiology) is a specialized diagnostic imaging tool which uses radiography to create a “photo” or image of your cat’s bones and other structures inside the body. X-rays are often taken of bones if a healthcare professional suspects a broken bone in your pet. However, x-rays can also be used to diagnose other problems with some organs, such as intestinal obstruction or an ingested foreign body. For instance, did your cat possibly swallow a coin? An x-ray might be used to find out!

An x-ray machine (think of it as similar to a camera) uses a type of radiation called electromagnetic radiation, also known as x-rays, to create a black and white image on a specialized film. In fact, x-rays are a type of light wave that’s not visible to human eyes. This type of radiation is high energy, which passes through anything not made of metal.

An x-ray image somewhat resembles the negative of an old-fashioned photo–it can show different tissues (bones, etc.) in shades from white to gray and black. Different amounts of x-rays are used depending on the type of tissue your cat’s veterinarian needs to view inside your cat or kitten. Denser tissues (teeth and bones) absorb x-rays and appear white, while other body structures such as muscles and organs may look gray or black.

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The process of an x-ray for a cat will usually involve having your cat placed on top of the examination table, then letting an expert technician adjust the x-ray beam so that it focuses on the area of interest. It is a relatively painless process, but some cats may benefit from sedation to reduce their anxiety and stress.

Cat x-rays are by far the most commonly used imaging method in the veterinary industry because they are extremely cost effective, despite being able to accurately diagnose the structure and composition of your cat’s skeleton, their large body cavities, and any foreign objects found inside their bodies.

Differences Between X-Rays and Other Feline Imaging

While x-rays are very helpful in diagnosing a cat’s health, it’s important to remember that x-rays are only a very small part of a complete diagnostic exam. Other imaging techniques and feline radiographs may be used to diagnose and treat your cat.

Other forms of diagnostic imaging that your pet cat may come across at some point in their lives include the following:

Are X-Rays Safe for my Cat?

Now that you understand how cat x-rays work and that this is a form of radiation, you may be wondering if x-rays are safe for your cat. While too much exposure to different types of radiation (UVA, UVB, gamma rays, x-rays) has been shown to be harmful, the x-rays used by your veterinarian in respectable animal hospitals are done using modern x-ray equipment with levels of radiation that are very low. These generally don’t cause health issues. It’s only the over-use of x-rays that could possibly harm your kitty.

How Much is X Ray for a Cat?

With the high cost of medical procedures for humans, you’re probably wondering how much is x ray for a cat? The cost of feline x-rays can vary depending on several factors:

X-rays are generally less expensive if you live in a small town or visit a local veterinarian. In large urbans areas, you can expect the cost to increase. Simple dental x-rays are generally cheaper than a more general scan, and if your kitty is unable to stay still and calm, your vet may suggest using sedation.

Kitty must be still during the x-ray, so the images come out nice and clear

How Can X-Rays Help Your Cat?

Just like x-rays for humans, cat x-rays can be used to diagnose many different types of health issues. X-rays may be used to check your cat for broken bones, dental problems, detecting hairballs and more. They are also used to diagnose asthma, pneumonia, heart disease, pregnancy and even more.

As you can see, x-rays can be an important part of your kitten or cat’s health. Don’t skip the x-rays because you’re afraid of the costs. Some veterinarians and clinics offer payment programs and sliding fees—don’t hesitate to ask your vet about these and other payment possibilities. Another option to consider is pet healthcare insurance. Find out more from your local veterinarian.

Newer X-Ray Technology

You may already be aware, but some veterinarians are using a new type of image called a digital x-ray, sometimes in addition to standard x-rays. Digital x-ray machine images show more detail due to their higher resolution and better quality of the images. With the higher resolution, the digital x-ray images offer more clarity—making it easier for the vet to make a diagnosis. Not only that, but the images are easy to save and easily emailed between your veterinarian and other pet healthcare providers.

Most Common Cat X-Rays

Numerous types of x-rays can be used to diagnose health problems in your kitten or cat. The type of x-ray used depends on the suspected condition and the location of the affected area. Additionally x-ray costs will differ depending on where you’re getting the x-ray. Here’s a quick list of some common types of cat x-rays, usually differing in areas of the body:

1). Chest X-Ray (also called a thoracic radiograph): is used to explore different health issues of the lungs, such as asthma, bronchitis, Feline Lower Airway Disease, viral or bacterial infections, tumors, broken ribs, etc.

2). Dental X-Ray: one of the most common tests in cats, dental x-rays are used to diagnose problems of the teeth, gums and other parts your cat’s mouth.

3). Abdominal X-Rays: another common test for cats, these images are used to diagnose problems with your cat’s digestive system and other internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys and intestines.

4). Bone Fracture X-Rays: being adventurous and active, cats can suffer bone fractures just like their humans! Your vet will take an x-ray if he suspects any broken bones in your cat’s limbs, etc. Common symptoms to watch for that may indicate your precious furball has a broken bone:

If you suspect a broken bone, head to your vet’s office or an emergency care clinic for pets as soon as possible. The faster the bone is set, the sooner your cat will experience pain relief and heal.

Cat X Ray Without Sedation

Will your cat or kitten need sedation during an x-ray procedure? It’s crucial that your pet remains still during her x-ray. If your cat is calm, then she may have a cat x ray without sedation. However, if your cat has an injury to the hips, skull, mouth or spine, she may require sedation. Depending on her injury or health issue, she may be in pain or may be positioned in such a way that causes pain during an x-ray.

Sedation will make your cat more comfortable and keep her still

Cats may be lightly sedated with gas anesthesia through a mask, which can take a few minutes. Other times, your vet may choose to inject a sedative—this works faster in some cases. Once the x-rays are finished, your pet may need a second injection to reverse the effects from the sedative injection. In the case of an injected sedative, your cat could be ready to leave about 15-20 minutes after the procedure. Some vets may ask you to remain in the waiting room for an additional amount of time, to be sure your kitty suffers no side effects from the sedative.

Cat X Ray Stomach

Abdominal x-rays are quite common in cats and may be used to diagnose several types of health conditions, with the abdominal as the area of interest. An abdominal x-ray provides an image of the bones and internal organs in your cat’s abdomen. You’ll be able to see your kitty’s liver, stomach, kidneys, bladder, intestines and uterus (in the case of female cats).

However, there may be times when your vet needs to view your cat’s stomach. A cat stomach x ray may be required if your vet suspects your cat has swallowed a foreign object, has an ulcer, an obstruction caused by parasites (such as worms), etc.

During a cat x ray stomach, your kitty should feel little to no discomfort, though if she’s not calm it may be necessary to use sedation. Your veterinarian will decide the best course of action to take.

Cat X Ray Shows Gas

Did you know your kitty can experience gas, just like you do? Well, it doesn’t make for polite conversation, but it’s true. Cats can suffer from intestinal gas and it is quite common.

Some symptoms of intestinal gas may include:

Some of the causes of intestinal gas in cats are similar to humans, and can include: diet change, gastrointestinal disease, foods difficult to digest, high-fat diets, milk products, spices, high-fiber foods and more. However, the most common cause of cause in your kitty may just be swallowed air from when she eats. If your cat or kitten has these types of symptoms, then it’s time to head to your vet’s office. Once there, your vet may decide to do an x-ray.

If cat x ray shows gas, your vet will be able to determine the cause and give your kitty the proper treatment to relieve her symptoms.

Cat X Rays Near Me

How do you go about searching for a clinic or veterinary who does cat x-rays? The first thing you can do is ask family and friends for their recommendations on a vet who offers cat x-rays. Another option is to do a Google search; type in “cat x-rays near me,” (without the quotation marks or the comma) and your browser will use your ISP location to pull up a list of veterinarians who offer pet x-rays.

Summing It Up

As you can see, x-rays offer a very important diagnostic tool to help your cat stay in tip-top shape. X-rays are useful for diagnosing many types of health conditions. If your cat or kitten is having a medical issue of any kind, and it doesn’t resolve in a day or two, or if it worsens, be sure to call your veterinarian and make an appointment. Our fur babies are precious balls of fluff and deserve every care we can give them.

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Julie

Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.
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