Pet Radiology (X-rays)

General X-Ray

Radiographs or X-rays are used to diagnose a variety of bone and soft tissue conditions. We commonly take X-rays for animals exhibiting lameness or to evaluate arthritic conditions. In the case of an accident or acute injury, X-rays are obtained to look at bone fractures and soft tissue trauma.

We also commonly use X-rays to look for thoracic (chest) and abdominal (stomach) abnormalities or masses. Dogs and cats with heart and lung conditions are screened on a regular basis to look for signs of progression of disease (e.g. congestive heart failure). If we find an abnormal mass during our physical exam, we may check X-rays to help diagnose the condition. In the case of an abdominal mass, we can schedule an ultrasound examination to get a closer look.

A frequent use of X-rays is to screen purebred dogs for hip and elbow dysplasia. The X-ray films are either sent to the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) and compared to the other dogs of the same breed, or sent to the PennHIP registry. We see a large number of working and sporting dogs at Arrowhead Animal Hospital, P.C. and perform either PennHIP evaluations or OFA X-rays regularly for those breeds of dog. Dogs exhibiting abnormal films can then be removed from the breeding pool by spay or neuter. In this way, we try to reduce the incidence of these crippling conditions in dogs.

PennHIP stands for the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program.

PennHIP is a multifaceted radiographic technology (x-ray) for hip evaluation. The technique assesses the quality of the canine hip and quantitatively measures canine hip joint laxity. The PennHIP method of evaluation is more accurate than the current standard in its ability to predict the onset of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is the hallmark of canine hip dysplasia (CHD). More information can be found on the PennHIP website located at Only specially trained radiologists can perform this evaluation and one of the radiologists we use is trained in this procedure.


What is the echocardiogram good for?

The echocardiogram reveals important information about the anatomy of the heart. It is especially useful for detecting problems with the heart valves (such as aortic stenosis or mitral valve prolapse). It is also an extremely useful test for evaluating congenital heart disease. The echocardiogram is also a good way to get a general idea of the overall function of the heart muscle.

Otto, CM. Textbook of Clinical Echocardiography, 3rd ed, WB Saunders, Philadelphia 2004.

Echo-Guided Needle Biopsies

What is an Echo-guided needle biopsy?

Ultrasound or echo-guided needle biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses sound waves (ultrasound) to pinpoint suspicious tissue so that samples may be withdrawn with a needle.


Ultrasound can be used as a diagnostic tool by itself or in addition to X-rays. In the case of abdominal masses, we can use an ultrasound machine to get a closer look.

Ultrasound can help in evaluating tendon and ligament injuries, and looking at the liver, spleen, kidneys and urinary bladder. When it is important to obtain a sterile urine sample, an ultrasound can be used to locate the urinary bladder and very accurately guide a needle (cystocentesis) to obtain the sample.

Ultrasound is also used to help in confirming pregnancy by locating the presence of follicles at around 4 weeks after breeding. It can be used near the delivery (whelping) date to determine heart rates and evaluate fetal stress and health.

All ultrasound examinations and interpretations are performed by a board certified veterinary radiologist. This is a highly specialized skill that can yield invaluable diagnostic information. It is non-invasive, painless, and safe.