X-Raying Furry Friends

Written by Liz, RAHT

When we tell an owner that x-rays are indicated, they often agree and send the animal off to the x-ray room. Owners rarely ask questions on how the radiographs are taken or what steps are involved in order to take them.  s a technician, I am the one, with assistance of course, to set up and take the x-rays. The first step in preparing to take an x-ray is making sure that every person in the x-ray room has their dosimeter. Every staff member in the clinic has a dosimeter, which is a government-regulated program, this is why owners cannot be present in the x-ray room. A dosimeter does not provide any protection from the radiation, but measures the amount of radiation the person is exposed to. For protection, a lead gown with a thyroid protector must be worn. There are also lead gloves to be worn when holding the patient. Once the veterinarian has determined that radiographs are indicated, the technician must know what exactly to focus on and which views the vet would like. For any x-ray, a measurement of the area must be taken so that the settings on the x-ray machine can be adjusted appropriately for that exact size.

There are multiple views that can be taken, depending on what anatomical structure is being focused on. For example, if the vet wants to see the abdomen in the x-ray, we can take a lateral view and a ventro-dorsal view.  A lateral view means the animal is laying on either their right or left side and the beam of the x-ray enters one side and exits the other. A ventro-dorsal view means that the animal is laying on their back and the beam of the x-ray enters their “belly” side and exits through their back. There are many different types of views, including dorso-palmar or dorso-plantar as another example. This would be an x-ray of a paw with the beam entering the “top” of the paw and exiting through the pad-side of the paw.

There are a lot of things for the technician to remember when taking an x-ray: making sure that the settings are changed, that there is a cassette under the animal, the pedal to take the x-ray is in reach (very frustrating when the animal is perfectly positioned but the pedal is on the other side of the table!), that the legs are stretched out or at the perfect angle, the marker indicating left or right is in the view, and that the animal stays perfectly still!