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Health & Wellness

How much do dog MRIs cost?

And how to prepare your pet for a scan

Veterinary medicine is constantly evolving to ensure that pets live longer, healthier lives. One of the key products of this evolution is magnetic resonance imaging tests (MRIs). This test allows veterinarians to check out what’s happening inside dogs’ bodies without being invasive. Since dogs can’t communicate their symptoms, MRIs explore what could be troubling them. Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough shares everything pet parents need to know about MRIs. 

How does an MRI work? 

An MRI machine is a tube-like device that takes images of the inside of dogs’ bodies for vets to interpret. Pets need to lie very still in the enclosed machine, sometimes for over an hour, therefore vets usually recommend general anesthesia for dogs (and cats, too).

Preparing your dog for an MRI

Here’s a quick checklist to make sure your best friend is all set for their MRI: 

  • Discuss the risks, benefits and costs of anesthesia with your veterinarian. 
  • Follow your veterinarian’s advice for pre-anesthesia care (sometimes they’ll recommend fasting). 
  • Make an appointment for a neurology consultation at a specialty hospital. 
  • Plan for blood work before the MRI. 
  • Prepare for a long day. 
  • Submit a pre-authorization request if your pet is enrolled in a pet insurance policy. This request will verify that the MRI cost is covered before the treatment. 

What does a pet MRI show us? 

MRI scans are non-invasive tests that are best for comparing the soft tissues of the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons and abdominal organs. The tests are beneficial because they show vets a stronger, clearer picture than other diagnostic tests, like radiographs (or X-rays). 

Your veterinarian may recommend an MRI scan if your dog has some of these common symptoms: 

  • Seizures
  • Lameness or limping
  • Joint, neck or back pain
  • Paralysis
  • Behavioral issues

Once the MRI test is over, your veterinarian may have a better indication of how to help your pet. Some common diagnoses that come from MRI scans include: 

  • Abscesses 
  • Inflammation 
  • Tumors or masses
  • Herniated discs (intervertebral disc disease)
  • Stenosis, or narrowing of the vertebral column 
  • Injuries to the soft tissue, such as shoulder instability and cruciate ligament rupture

Dog MRI cost

The cost of a dog MRI without insurance may be more than $2,000. Having pet insurance will lower the vet bill while ensuring your dog gets the care they need.

Comprehensive pet insurance to the rescue

Fred, a West Highland White Terrier, started having seizures at 12 years old. A neurologist recommended an MRI scan to see what was happening inside of Fred, and it turned out that he had a mass in his brain. The MRI allowed Fred’s pet parents to start him on the necessary therapy immediately. 

Luckily, Fred was covered by Fetch by The Dodo’s pet insurance which allowed his parents to immediately agree to the necessary diagnostic testing (including an MRI). Fred received an accurate diagnosis and his pet parents were paid back $10,989 for the tests, according to Fetch claims data. 

If your pet ever needs an MRI, you’ll know how to prepare and how having pet insurance can put you in a position to always get your pet the best care.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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