Most owners are already prepared to plop down a stack of cash when visiting the vet, but anytime your vet mentions the word “X-ray,” you’ll need to be prepared to dig a little deeper than usual.
X-rays are obviously a great tool for vets trying to treat sick or injured animals, but they’re also pretty pricey. Most owners find that they cost between $75 and $500, depending on a variety of factors.
We’ll talk about some of the factors that are responsible for this wide range of prices below, and we’ll provide you with a few suggestions for keeping X-ray costs low. But first, we’ll discuss a few of the most common reasons your dog may need an X-ray.
Key Takeaways: How Much Do Dog X-Rays Cost?
- X-rays are often pretty expensive, but they range in price from about $75 to $500. The costs for any specific X-ray will vary based on the number of views required, whether or not sedation is required, and individual differences in veterinary pricing.
- X-rays are used to investigate a variety of health problems. X-rays may be required to visualize broken bones, scan for tumors, or locate swallowed objects, among other things.
- You may be able to save some money on X-rays in a few ways. This includes things like signing up for a pet health insurance plan or shopping around at different vet offices.
Reasons Your Dog May Need an X-Ray
X-rays are one of the best ways to allow your vet to peer inside your pet’s body, but they’re more effective for visualizing some parts of the body – especially bone and other dense structures – than others.
These are some of the most common reasons a vet will order an X-ray:
If your vet suspects that your dog has suffered a fracture, he or she will likely order an X-ray. This will allow the vet and his or her staff to visually inspect the bone for damage.
Other Orthopedic Issues
It will often be necessary to take an X-ray to diagnose hip dysplasia and other orthopedic problems in dogs. In the case of hip dysplasia, the X-ray will allow your vet to visualize the hip socket and femur and analyze the way they fit together. This will allow the vet or orthopedix expert to decide if dog hip dysplasia surgery needs to be recommended, or if the severity is not enough to warrant invasive surgery.
Swallowed Object / Foreign Body
Inedible items can cause problems for dogs who swallow them, and vets may order X-rays to determine the location of the ingested object. Just understand that some objects won’t show up on an X-ray, so your vet will actually be looking for things like trapped air to help pin down the location of the swallowed item.
From there, your vet can devise a treatment strategy and go in to get whatever your pet swallowed (if necessary). X-rays can also be helpful for finding deep splinters or other objects that have penetrated your dog’s skin.
X-rays are sometimes necessary after surgical procedures so that the vet can inspect the work and ensure your dog is healing properly. For example, if your dog has a broken leg which requires pins, screws, or plates to repair, the vet will need to visualize the bone and hardware to make sure everything is lined up properly.
Whether they occur in the gallbladder, kidneys or bladder, calcified stones show up pretty well on X-rays. After verifying the presence of the stones and pinpointing their location, your vet can go in and take them out without having to hunt around blindly (if necessary – sometimes stones are left to pass on their own).
X-rays can be useful for spotting and identifying some types of tumors. Not all tumors show up well on X-rays, and some have a tendency to blend in with the surrounding tissues. However, X-rays remain one of the primary ways vets investigate when cancer is suspected.
An ultrasound is typically the imaging technology of choice for confirming that a dog is pregnant or checking on the developing puppies in the early stages of pregnancy.
However, by the 45th day of pregnancy, the puppies can be seen on an X-ray as their skeletons have finally solidified enough to be visible. An X-ray can allow your vet to determine the number of puppies your pooch is carrying.
Factors That Influence the Cost of a Dog X-Ray
As mentioned earlier, the costs associated with X-rays vary wildly, which can make it difficult to predict the cost of one for your pup.
But, most of the differences in price are related to the factors listed below. By considering the way these factors apply to your situation, you may be able to determine whether your dog’s X-rays will be at the top or bottom of the price spectrum.
Your dog must remain still when the X-ray is taken to ensure a clear image. While some dogs will sit still enough for the X-ray, those who are nervous or in pain may not be willing or able to do so. And given that the only other option would be having a vet tech stand beside the dog and hold him in position (which obviously creates health risks for the staff member), sedation is often the only option.
Accordingly, your vet will likely sedate your dog to calm him down and keep him still. Sedation may drastically raise the price tag of the X-ray, but there isn’t much you can do to avoid it when necessary.
Some parts of the body are easier to X-ray than others. For example, it’s rarely very difficult to X-ray a dog’s paw or lower leg. By contrast, it can be tricky to X-ray a dog’s head, and the tail may also be somewhat tricky to image without sedation.
Number of Views Needed
Sometimes vets need to see a body structure or object from more than one direction, so they order the staff to take several different X-rays from multiple points of view. As you’d expect, each view needed will raise the cost of the overall procedure.
Like most other veterinary services, X-rays are more expensive in places with high median incomes than they are in areas where the average citizen makes a little less money. In some cases, it may be helpful to drive a little out of your way to find a vet in a lower-income area, where the costs of an X-ray will likely be lower.
Individual Differences between Vets
Even if you found two vet offices in the same building, chances are their prices would differ a bit. While the veterinary services provided in each case will be essentially identical, there are many other ways the two businesses may vary (such as the quality of their X-ray machine).
These differences will almost certainly be reflected on your bill.
Vets occasionally use substances that are easily visible on an X-ray to help make various body structures and tissues show up more effectively.
For example, intestinal X-rays often work best when dogs are given a barium milkshake shortly before the procedure. These types of contrast-improving agents will raise the cost of the X-ray slightly.
Tips and Tricks for Fitting Dog X-Rays into Your Budget
Some owners may run into budgetary problems upon finding out that their pet needs an X-ray. Fortunately, there are a few things you can try to reduce your costs slightly.
Consider Pet Health Insurance
Most pet health insurance policies are like a cross between conventional health insurance and a bulk-buying discount plan.
Many offer significant discounts for things like X-rays, and some may cover the bulk of the cost associated with them. However, most have mandatory waiting periods before they become active, so you’ll need to obtain a policy well in advance of needing one.
Seek Out Teaching Hospitals
Many colleges with strong veterinary programs operate teaching clinics or hospitals where students learn and practice veterinary procedures under the supervision of their superiors. Often times, the prices at these clinics are more affordable than in conventional veterinary clinics and offices.
Has your dog ever needed an X-ray? Let us know how much it set you back, as well as any associated costs, such as sedation. Also, be sure to mention the general area you call home, as location is one of the biggest factors involved in the differences between X-ray prices.
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