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Sedation During Radiographs (x-rays) in Dogs & Cats
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
Diagnostic Tests
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Q. Why is it necessary to sedate pets during certain X-rays?
 
A. When taking radiographs of the hips, skull, oral cavity, and spine, the animal must remain perfectly motionless to obtain quality radiographs. Sometimes, the condition is painful, or the positioning is uncomfortable. For example, in radiographing hips to diagnose hip dysplasia, the animal must lay on her back, and her hind legs are extended (pulled away from her body) and rotated inward. This position is uncomfortable, but crucial if we are going to get a good quality radiograph and see the (sometimes very small) abnormalities which may be present.

For these reasons animals are usually sedated, or lightly anesthetized when these types of radiographs are taken. It makes the procedure less uncomfortable for the animal, and allows us to get a good radiograph the first time. That way we do not have to put the animal through the process multiple times before we get a radiograph that is acceptable.

Cats may be given small amounts of gas anesthesia through a mask for several minutes while the radiographs are being taken. Some newer drugs for dogs are actually reversible. The drug is given by injection, and 10-20 minutes later the dog has responded to the light anesthesia. We can then take the radiograph, and give a second injection to reverse the sedation. In either case, the dog or cat is usually ready to walk out to the waiting room 15 minutes later. And we have high quality radiographs.

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