Cat X Ray: Everything You Need To Know

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Cat X Ray

If your veterinarian tells you that you need cat X rays, you'll probably have a few questions about it.

For instance: What sort of health problem will the vet be looking to rule in or out? 

Are cat x rays safe for my animal? 

And, equally important, how much should I expect to pay for the procedure?

Let's answer these questions and learn about more about this common diagnostic procedure used in cats, dogs, and humans alike.

How does Cat X Ray Work?

The standard X-ray is a type of diagnostic imaging technology that helps clinicians see the inside of an animal's body. If your vet requests or recommends one for your kitty, then it's because he or she feels that it will allow the team to make more accurate diagnoses, guide treatment, as well as monitor disease progression.

Vet X-rays function in much the same way as they do for humans. Here's a basic rundown of how they work:

  • A X-ray is a type of high energy electromagnetic radiation. In fact, it's considered a type of light. But, because it has such a short wavelength and high frequency, the human eye can't see it.
  • Since X-rays are so high energy, they can actually pass right through non-metallic objects, including organs, muscles, and other types of soft tissues. However, the denser tissues within a cat's body, including bones and teeth, will absorb the X-ray radiation. This is why bones appear white on a X-ray image while organs and muscles look grey or black, and is what allows radiologists and doctors to differentiate between internal structures.
  • An X-ray machine is essentially like a large camera that can take a photo of the inside of your cat's body. The machine sends powerful X-ray beams that pass through soft tissue and be absorbed by dense tissue, which then produces a picture on a specialized film.
  • Vets can take X-ray images of virtually any part of your cat's body.

Traditional vs. Digital Cat X-Rays

Many veterinarian facilities are now using digital X-ray technology. The main difference between digital vs. traditional X-ray machines is that the former tend to produce much higher resolution, higher quality images.

This makes it even easier for vets to see inside your cat's body and make more accurate diagnoses. Images from a digital X-ray machine can also be emailed and shared much more quickly and easily between other veterinary team members.

Common Reasons for Getting a Cat X Ray

Here are a few examples of health conditions that a cat X ray can diagnose:

Cat X Ray: Everything You Need To Know 1
  • Bone fractures and skeletal deformities
  • Cancerous tumors, cysts, and kidney stones
  • The location of gastrointestinal obstructions
  • The location of ingested foreign bodies
  • Dental problems, including tooth infections and fractures
  • Conditions affecting the lungs, liver, heart, and other organs and large body cavities

How Much Do Average Veterinary X Rays Cost?image of a feline with money in paw

Veterinary X rays are often the first line of defense when it comes to internal imaging. This is because compared to other types of diagnostic imaging technology (like MRIs and CT scans), X-rays are faster and less expensive.

But how expensive are they?

Average Cost of Cat X-Rays

If your vet tells you that he or she needs to take some cat X-rays, then there are several things that will determine how much you should expect to pay. Factors include:

  • Whether you live in an urban or rural community
  • Which part or parts of your cat's body needs to be photographed
  • The size of your cat (especially if a comprehensive, full-body scan is done)
  • Whether or not your cat needs sedation or general anesthesia

Dental X-rays, for instance, generally cost around $75 to $150. For X-ray imaging of your cat's chest or abdomen, you may need to pay up to $250. Forelimbs and hind limbs, on the other hand, may cost as little as $70. 

Keep in mind that the  X-ray bill doesn't cover all the other medical fees that can rack up. This includes things like lab and blood work, medications, vet visit fees, and the follow-up costs associated with any underlying health conditions discovered via the diagnostic imaging.

For this reason, saving some extra cash earmarked for unexpected veterinary bills is a great idea if you're a cat owner. Additionally, pet insurance can help keep vet X ray costs down.

image of a concerned kitty

Are Veterinary X Rays Safe for my Animal?

It's long been known that excessive exposure to certain types of light—including X-rays, gamma rays, and UVA and UVB rays from the sun—can cause cancer.

But if your cat needs veterinary X rays, the amount of radiation she'll be exposed to is relatively small, and generally not excessive enough to cause any sort of health problem (especially if your animal gets X-rays only a handful of times).

Cat X Ray: Everything You Need To Know 1

In general, when it comes to veterinary X-ray technology, the broad animal medical community agrees that the benefits of using it far outweigh the potential risks associated.This is especially true now that more and more veterinary hospitals are now using digital x-ray technology.

Why? Because compared to traditional radiography, digital radiography exposes animals to even lower levels of radiation. 

If you're worried that your cat will be scared during X-ray testing, don't worry. Your vet team will probably put your kitty under sedation or general anesthesia. Not only does this keep your cat calm and comfortable, but it also allows the doctors to get clear images, since your animal will stay still.


Veterinary X rays are just one of many types of diagnostic tests and procedures that a vet can use to help your feline friend in a time of need.

Cat X Ray: Everything You Need To Know 3

If your vet ever recommends that your animal undergoes this kind of testing, be sure to ask the doc any questions you may have. For instance, do they use& digital vs. traditional X-ray technology? Can they estimate how long your cat will need to be under general anesthesia? How should you prepare your animal for the appointment?

Your vet should be able to answer all these questions and more. In the meantime, trust that your kitty is getting the help she needs to stay as healthy and happy as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions


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