An early detection of cancer may often translate into a more likely successful treatment plan. Magnetic resonance imaging, commonly abbreviated as MRI, is a non-invasive tool that many veterinarians resort to when seeing dogs with suspected cancers. An MRI uses magnetic energy and radio waves in order to provide detailed cross-sectional or three dimensional pictures of organs and structures. MRI imaging in particular has proven helpful in detecting cancer of the brain or spine in canines.
Advantages of MRI's in Dogs with Cancer
There are many advantages of using magnetic resonance in dogs suspected of having cancer. As already mentioned, one of the biggest advantages is early detection of cancer if the owners have been prompt enough in seeking veterinary attention. Following are some other advantages of MRIs.
The main benefits of MRI images is that these state of the art pictures are much more detailed than X-rays and offer better contrast between different types of soft tissues, therefore helping identify tumors besides soft tissue cancer in dogs without resorting to invasive exploratory surgeries.
MRIs are also not limited to solely diagnosing tumors in dogs. Rather, hey are also used to track the growth or reduction is size of tumors so to determine if treatment is being successful or not. This is a very helpful tool for dogs already diagnosed with cancer.
Disadvantages of MRIs in Dogs with Cancer
While MRIs offer many advantages to veterinary medicine there are some disadvantages worth mentioning. Following are some disadvantages and limitations when it comes to using MRIs for dogs with cancer.
While these state of the art diagnostic tools are growing in popularity nowadays as veterinary medicine advances offering better diagnostic equipment, MRIs still most likely require a referral to a large animal hospital or veterinary university. This often means traveling long distances to reach the closest facility equipped with an MRI machine for dogs and sometimes, with wait times of up to a week.
While MRIs are valuable tools to detect cancer, they many not be able to detect small deposits of calcium in tissues, according to Pamela A. Davol, a research scientist in the fields of biochemical oncology These deposits often are significant signs of cancer processes taking place, therefore important potential cancer markers are missed.
An MRI is done under general anesthesia and takes between 30 to 60 minutes to perform. The use of general anesthesia is necessary because the dog must stay very still and nobody can be in the room to immobilize him.
Last but not least, pet owners must consider costs. These costs may be quite high often easily reaching $1000 to $1,500 dollars. Some pet insurance companies may cover part of the costs depending on the type of plan.
Once the dog has had its MRI test, he or she will be put into the recovery room for a couple of hours. Afterward, a board certified veterinary radiologist will rule out or confirm cancer, and will prepare a report for the veterinarian to look over so to determine the best course of action.