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PET Scans vs. CT Scans: What's the Difference?

PET Scans vs. CT Scans: What's the Difference?

Our veterinarians in Upland are here to clarify the purpose and process of PET/CT scans for your pet. We'll explain when these scans are needed and what you can anticipate during your pet's appointment.

What are PET/CT scans used for?

PET/CT scans are commonly used in oncology to detect and evaluate cancer. They can help determine the stage of cancer, monitor treatment effectiveness, and identify any potential recurrence. 

Additionally, PET/CT scans are used in cardiology to assess heart function and blood flow. They can also be used in neurology to diagnose conditions such as epilepsy.

Detecting Cancer with PET/CT Scans

PET/CT scans can be a powerful tool in detecting cancer because they provide detailed images of the body's internal structures. By combining the functional information from PET scans, which detect metabolic activity, with the anatomical information from CT scans, which provide detailed structural images, veterinarians can accurately identify cancerous cells and tumors.

Do all types of cancer show up on PET/CT scans?

It’s important to note that not all cancers can be detected through PET/CT scans. Some types of cancer, such as certain forms of early-stage prostate cancer or small tumors, might not always show up clearly. In such cases, additional diagnostic tests or imaging methods may be required for a comprehensive evaluation. 

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

A CT scan produces a clear picture of your pet's organs, bones, and tissues. In contrast, a PET scan reveals how the body's tissues function at a cellular level. Here are some more differences:

  • CT and PET use different materials. CT scans pass X-rays through the body to create images. A PET scan uses a radioactive material that emits energy, which a special camera can detect.
  • No radiation remains 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. A CT scan will show signs of an issue after the disease has begun to change the structure of the tissues or organs.

Comparing & Contrasting PET Scans & CT Scans

Let's delve a little deeper and see a little more about how CT scans and PET scans may differ.

CT Scans

Advanced CT scanning generates high-quality images of your pet's body, revealing intricate details that standard X-rays can't show. They capture clear pictures of bones, soft tissues, and various body parts. Common areas to examine include the spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, joints, and chest. CT scans can also evaluate lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, the skull, brain, and blood vessels.

PET Scans

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans are used to give doctors a detailed view of how the patient's tissues and organs are working. PET scans are most commonly used to detect and monitor cancer.

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

To ensure the CT machine captures clear images, it's crucial for the patient to remain still during the scan. While human patients can simply be asked to hold their breath and stay still, this approach doesn't work for dogs and cats. Instead, they require sedation or anesthesia. Throughout the CT scan, your pet's vital signs are monitored.

After the scans are captured, experts will analyze the images, creating a comprehensive report with findings and recommendations for further treatment if needed.

How long do PET & CT scans take?

A CT scan can be performed in minutes, making it an excellent tool for emergencies when a vet needs to act fast. A PET scan can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours to complete.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes only. Inland Valley Veterinary Specialists does not offer CT or PET scans at this time.

Has your vet recommended advanced diagnostic imaging for your pet? At Inland Valley Veterinary Specialists, we have an advanced lab and can offer many kinds of diagnostic testing. Contact us today to set up an appointment or get your vet to contact us for a referral.

New Patients Welcome

Inland Valley Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced veterinarians care passionately about the health and well-being of Upland companion animals. Get in touch today to book your cat or dog's first appointment.

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