Pet Owners MRI Information

Animal MRI Center  


Information for Our Clients

What is a MRI? Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), is a non-invasive imaging technique that has become a commonly used diagnostic tool in veterinary medicine since it’s early use in our profession in the 1980’s. The MRI consists of a magnet that creates a magnetic field that causes the nucleus or proton of hydrogen atoms to spin in alignment with the magnetic field. Hydrogen is a common element within tissues, due to their high water content. Depending on the frequency of the magnetic field, when the protons return to their resting state a specific release of energy (signal) occurs that can then be recorded, creating images.
Patients having a MRI must remain very still, otherwise movement can create a defect in the images referred to as an artifact. Movement artifact would make a MRI impossible to interpret. Our patients must be anesthetized in order to complete a diagnostic MRI.
Why are MRI’s utilized? MRI is particularly valuable for imaging areas of the body such as the brain and the spinal cord. Because the brain and spine are well protected by a covering of bone, they cannot be evaluated readily with radiography or ultrasonography. Other areas of the body like the nasal sinuses, joints and the abdomen may also be evaluated using the MRI. MRI allows more detailed evaluation of vascular structures and growths. This powerful imaging technique can provide accurate therapeutic planning by creating more detailed studies than other imaging systems and allowing veterinary clinicians to give descriptions of abnormalities that may not be otherwise appreciated.
What are some of the common areas imaged with MRI and why?
  • Spine and spinal cord
  • Brain
  • Joints
  • Nasal cavity
  • A disease process in which cross–sectional imaging that aids in treatment planning
    • Adrenal mass +/- regional vascular invasion
    • Other complex masses
    • Other abdominal defects
Specific clinical signs that often warrant MRI:
Seizures (early or late onset)
Vertigo, vision loss
Neck or Back Pain
Limb weakness
Wobbliness or lack of coordination
Abnormal Nasal Drainage or Swelling
Frequently asked Questions-
If my pet has a microchip can they have a MRI? Yes, a MRI can be performed, however please let the doctor know your pet has a microchip. Microchips will not be damaged, nor will they cause harm to your pet, but depending on the area to be scanned, the microchip may alter or blur the appearance of the scan.
What should I do prior to my pets appointment? We ask that every MRI patient have recent laboratory testing (chemistry panel and CBC) as well as thoracic radiographs. These ‘pre-anesthetic’ tests help in identifying any irregularities that might put your pet at risk of complications under anesthesia. 
Pets should not receive any food after 11 PM the night before the procedure. Pets may have small amounts of water until the morning of the procedure. Please bring all medications that your pets is taking to the visit as well as some of their food. Morning medications should be withheld the day of the procedure unless you are advised differently by your veterinarian.
What will happen the day of the appointment? When you arrive you and your pet will meet with a doctor and your pets history, laboratory testing and radiographs will be reviewed. You will be asked to sign consent forms for both anesthesia and the MRI as well as a written estimate for the procedure will be provided. Please be prepared to visit our office for approximately 1 hour. Your pet will then be admitted to the hospital. A catheter will be placed to administer medications and intravenous fluids during the procedure. Placing a catheter does require that hair be clipped over the vein. Your pet will receive pre-medications that will lightly sedate them prior to being placed under general anesthesia. Patients will be under Isoflurane (gas) general anesthesia throughout the procedure. Your pet will be monitored by a veterinary technician and doctor throughout the course of the procedure. Your pet will be discharged to your care once they have fully recovered from anesthesia unless they are remaining at the hospital for further therapies. Please expect your pet to be with us for the whole day. A radiologist report will be available to you and your veterinarian within 24-48 hours of the procedure.
How is my pet monitored? From the time your pet is admitted to the hospital, they will under the care of a veterinarian and a technician. Once your pet is anesthetized, they will be placed on a padded table and their pulse, respirations, oxygenation and body temperature will be monitored throughout the procedure. Your pets care will be supervised by a veterinarian and a veterinary technician throughout the procedure. Once your pet has recovered from anesthesia one of the staff members will contact you to give you an update on your pets condition.
What is the difference between MRI machines? In an effort to provide superior imaging and increased pet safety we offer an open MRI system. This systems benefits include: Greater Safety, Reduced Cost, Better Patient Access
MRI safety must be adequately taken into account. Safety concerns increase proportionately as you increase the field strength of a magnet. Of particular concern are the safety issues related to the following:
SAR - Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is a measure of energy deposited by the magnetic field in a given mass of tissue.The heating potential is notably higher and more significant as you increase the field strength of a magnet.
NOISE - According to a recent study, monkeys, dogs, cats, pigs and rabbits are frequently exposed to equivalent loudness levels during MRI scans beyond what is considered safe for human exposure.  The sensitive frequency ranges for rats and mice are shifted substantially upward and their equivalent loudness levels fall within the NIOSH zone. A conclusion was drawn that MRI exposes many animals to levels of noise and duration that would exceed NIOSH human exposure limits.
Low field MRI units are much quieter and would help decrease stress and potential harm to scanned animals.
CRYOGENS - Cryogens are chemicals with very low boiling points used to cool the magnets on a high field MRI system.  Cryogens allow the magnet to remain in a superconducting state, drastically reducing the amount of power needed to control the system.  The most common cryogen used in MRI is liquid helium.  Cryogens are necessary to keep the scanner cool and working properly but they also pose physical hazards. Quenching refers to the events that occur when the liquid cryogens that cool the magnet coils boil off rapidly, which result in helium escaping very rapidly from the cryogen bath.  A quench generally is accompanied by a loud bang or explosion.
Our MRI units do not use helium.
Due to the unique open design of our low field MRI system, patient access is superior to traditional high field MRI systems.  The MRI operator can be in direct, hands on contact with the patient during the entire exam making it easier to insure that they are not in distress.
Can MRI’s injure my pet? People have them done all the time! And just like people pets may have MRIs safely. However, just like people anything located around the brain or heart made of metal could possibly move and we don't want that to happen. Pets seldom have pacemakers and metal implants. However we ask clients to inform us of any implants within their pets. Metal implants like pins and plates (usually used for fracture repair) can be present as long as they have been in place for 6-8 weeks and well healed. Our biggest concern is that the metal can cause an "artifact" that blurs out parts of the image. Patient safety and getting the most accurate study possible are always our biggest concerns.
Can't they do a MRI of the whole animal at once? No, creating a full body scan means that the areas that we are most concerned with may not be as accurately imaged and important information may be missed. By concentrating the MRI on a particular area, we get that much greater detail. Also, performing a whole body scan would take many hours and mean that the patient would be under anesthesia for a prohibitively long period of time.
What is the cost of a MRI? The cost depends on the area of the body that is being imaged. Our MRI prices also include the anesthesia, the monitoring and the reading of the scan by a board-certified veterinary radiologist. During your consult, these topics will be discussed.
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Veterinary Care Specialists

6am - 2am / 7 Days
205 Rowe Rd Milford, MI 48380
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Fax: 248.685.8122
Customer Care 248.684.0468
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