VCA Veterinary Referral Associates

Diagnostic Imaging

At VCA Veterinary Referral Associates, we utilize advanced diagnostic tools, including state-of-the-art imaging, to more quickly and accurately arrive at diagnosis of a medical condition and thus develop the treatment protocol for a patient faster. In addition, our hospital's board certified specialists in veterinary radiology have advanced training and years of experience in this highly-specialized area. This ensures that your pet will receive only the best medical care and attention at VCA Veterinary Referral Associates.

What Is A Veterinary Radiologist?

A board certified specialist in veterinary radiology is a licensed veterinarian who has obtained intensive, additional training in all aspects of radiology, such as radiographs (x-rays), ultrasonography, CT, MRI, nuclear medicine, and biopsy techniques. A veterinary radiologist is trained to make optimal use of sophisticated, high tech equipment that can aid in the diagnosis and proper treatment of many serious diseases.

Specialists in veterinary radiology typically work in support of general practice veterinarians and other specialists. The signs of disease on a veterinary x-ray or ultrasound are often very subtle. It can take significant expertise to read these subtle signs and, therefore, such signs are less likely to be missed or misinterpreted if an expert in veterinary radiology is consulted.

Why Does My Pet Need To Be Referred to A Veterinary Radiologist?

Specialists in veterinary radiology frequently work in a support role with general practitioner veterinarians or other types of specialists in order to help:

  • prioritize a set of possible diagnoses
  • identify the extent of disease in the body (including which organs may be involved)
  • identify traumatic injuries
  • identify internal tumors and masses
  • guide future diagnostic procedures
  • provide additional expertise or a second opinion by reviewing routine x-rays, ultrasounds, etc.
  • assist in performing biopsies or fine needle aspirates

Rarely, general practices have board certified veterinary radiologists on staff within their own hospitals. In most cases, general practitioners will consult with or refer patients to veterinary radiologists at referral practices. While many general practitioners routinely take radiographs or offer ultrasonography in their own practices, board certified radiologists are frequently needed for additional consultation. Thanks to the magic of telemedicine, veterinary radiologists can also review images and offer consultation remotely to any practice via the Internet.

A CT ('cat scan'�) or MRI study can be an important diagnostic tool in determining the cause of illness and extent of a disease or diseases in a veterinary patient. Due to the expense of the equipment and the specialized training required, these types of services are generally available only at referral facilities or teaching hospitals.

While your regular or primary care veterinarian can manage many aspects of your pet's care, there is sometimes a need for the attention of a specialist to either take over the pet's treatment or work in tandem with the doctor as veterinary radiologists typically do. You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when to refer you and your pet for more specialized diagnostic work or treatment is one that is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of medical care for his or her problem.

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved In My Pet's Care?

Yes. In almost all cases, your regular veterinarian will still supervise your pet's veterinary care. Veterinary radiologists typically work in concert with your veterinarian and other specialists to diagnose and treat your pet's injuries and illnesses. They help provide your primary care veterinarian with additional information about your pet's health status.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Health Problems Require The Help of a Veterinary Radiologist?

The expertise of a board certified veterinary radiologist is helpful in any of the following situations:

  • Surgical cases
  • Abdominal masses and tumors
  • Pulmonary and thoracic masses and tumors
  • Kidney and urinary bladder stones
  • Gallbladder stones, biliary obstructions, biliary mucoceles, and other biliary tract diseases
  • Uterine infections
  • Pregnancy/labor difficulties
  • Respiratory diseases amenable to surgical correction (laryngeal paralysis, tracheal collapse)
  • Joint and bone trauma
  • Internal medicine cases of all kinds, including but not limited to:

       - Cushing's disease
       - Inflammatory bowel disease and other intestinal diseases
       - Diabetes
       - Recurrent urinary tract infections
       - Liver and kidney diseases
       - Gallbladder diseases
       - Pancreatitis
       - Blood vessel diseases
  • Trauma cases (when assessing the extent of injury)
  • Brain, spinal cord, or disc problems, or other neurologic conditions
  • Cancer patients, particularly to help determine the extent of disease and obtain a definitive diagnosis via ultrasound-guided aspirates or biopsies
What Additional Training Does A Boarded Veterinary Radiologist Have?

Veterinarians who want to become board certified in radiology must seek additional, intensive training to become a specialist and earn this prestigious credentialing. Specialty status is granted by the American College of Veterinary Radiologists (ACVR). A veterinarian who has achieved this specialty status will list the initials, 'DACVR,' after his or her DVM degree. Or, the veterinarian may indicate that he or she is a 'Diplomate' of the ACVR. The word 'Diplomate' typically means the specialist has achieved the following:

  • Obtained a traditional 8-year veterinary degree (four years of college plus four years of veterinary school).
  • Completed an additional three or four year residency, which involves intense training and study of diagnostic imaging under the supervision of board certified veterinary radiologists.
  • Completed the credentialing application process established by the ACVR.
  • Passed two rigorous, multiple day examinations which include written and oral portions.
Why Does My Pet Need a CT scan or MRI?

Some areas of your pet's body are difficult to view with conventional radiographic techniques. Both CT and MRI can sometimes provide more accurate views or additional information that would not be available through routine radiography. All diagnostic imaging techniques'"including CT, MRI, radiographs, ultrasound, and nuclear medicine'"are especially helpful to veterinarians as animal patients cannot tell us what is wrong.

What Is A Contrast Agent?

A contrast agent is a substance that is administered to your pet intravenously that helps determine the amount of blood flow to a particular tissue area. This contrast agent may help the veterinary radiologist determine whether the tissue is normal, inflamed, or cancerous. The agent can also help determine the edges of where abnormal tissue ends and normal tissue begins.

If your pet is in need of a specialist in veterinary radiology, discuss it with your VCA general practitioner vet or find a board certified VCA veterinary radiologist near you.

Services Offered in Diagnostic Imaging


General Practice

We have over 600 animal hospitals in 41 states and 4 Canadian provinces that are staffed by more than 3,000 fully-qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 400 being board-certified specialists.

The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments such as wellness, spay/neuter, advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, boarding, and grooming. Services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Emergency Care

Your emergency needs can be met right here at our hospital.
VCA Veterinarian Referral Associates provides 24 hour emergency veterinary care, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Emergency veterinarians, veterinary technicians and/or veterinary assistants are on staff 24 hours a day.

Please call us at 301-926-3300. We are located at 500 Perry Parkway. Gaithersburg, MD 20877.

We provide the highest standard in veterinary emergency and critical care services. We are trained and equipped to perform a variety of emergency surgeries and procedures. We provide the highest standards of pain management. Emergency internal medicine consultations, including full diagnostics, are available.

Please call or come in immediately if you feel your pet is having an emergency or needs after-hours care.