As any cat parent knows, veterinary care is included in the responsibilities of owning a cat. Your pet will require preventative medical care throughout their life and may require diagnostic procedures. Standard procedures include blood tests, urinalysis, and fecal examinations. In addition, certain cases require diagnostic imaging, like X-rays.
X-rays (also called radiographs) taken of your cat are the same as those of humans and are used to diagnose fractures, malformations, obstructions, tumors, and more. X-rays are a non-invasive and painless way for your vet to obtain important information when viewing areas of the body with solid tissues or contrasting tissue densities.
If your pet requires radiography, you’re likely wondering, “How much does a cat X-ray cost?” Thankfully, X-rays are a relatively low-cost procedure that can sometimes save your cat’s life.
How Much Is An X-Ray For A Cat?
On average, radiography costs between $100 to $250, but many factors are responsible for the overall cost. Your feline’s X-rays could cost as little as $75 or as much as $500.
Cat Chest X-Ray Cost
Chest radiographs are among the most common veterinary X-rays performed on companion animals. “We X-ray a cat’s chest if they are in breathing distress and we are concerned about fluid around their lungs (a pleural effusion), collapsed lungs (pneumothorax), or other health problems like feline asthma or heart disease,” says Dr. Hannah Godfrey, BVetMed, MRCVS.
Chest X-rays can also spot rib or spine fractures or monitor postoperative changes in the esophagus, lungs, and heart.
Expect cat chest X-rays to cost around $100 to $250.
Cat Abdominal X-Ray Cost
Abdominal radiographs are used for various purposes. They are often used to spot holes in the intestine, tumors, and intestinal blockages. Your vet may request an X-ray if your feline has been showing symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, or retching. A radiograph may also be conducted in the event of an unexplained fever, pain, wound, loss of appetite, or weight loss. If you suspect your feline has swallowed a foreign object, an X-ray may also be taken.
A radiograph may also detect pregnancy or problems with the kidneys, bladder, or reproductive tract.
A cat abdominal or stomach X-ray will likely cost between $100 and $250.
Cat Dental X-Ray Cost
Dental problems, including bone loss and infections, require dental X-rays to diagnose. Radiography costs will be around $75 to $150.
Dental radiographs require your cat to be under anesthesia. Without anesthesia, the X-ray sensor cannot be accurately placed. Anesthesia is tailored to the individual feline. The level of anesthetic and your cat’s vital signs are monitored during the entire procedure. The costs of anesthesia are covered later in this article.
What Affects A Cat’s X-Ray Costs?
As mentioned above, the location of your feline’s injury can affect its cost. Some parts of the body are easier to access with radiography. More complex procedures will increase the price. For example, an X-ray of your kitty’s leg may cost only $75, but a chest radiograph may cost $250+.
Besides the location of the X-ray, several other factors affect a kitty’s X-ray costs.
Number Of X-rays Needed
If your vet needs to see an area of the body from multiple viewpoints, they’ll request various X-rays. “To get a good idea of the injury, we would usually take two or three X-rays to allow a 3D assessment,” says Godfrey.
Consider your cat’s size as well. A larger cat may require additional X-rays. Each radiograph will cost you and increase the procedure’s overall cost.
Sedation & Anesthesia
“The majority of cats are given some form of anesthetic or sedation before X-rays are taken because the radiation makes it unsafe for staff to manually restrain them,” says Godfrey. Cats in pain, too fearful to maintain composure, or too physically tense to get a clear image of the muscle will require sedation or anesthesia to ease the process.
“To keep them still and ensure we take a good quality image that allows an accurate diagnosis, we will usually use sedation or an anesthetic,” adds Godfrey. “If the patient is very unwell or struggling to breathe, we use a milder sedation protocol or avoid sedation altogether.”
Sedation typically costs between $50 to $100. Expect to pay between $150 and $300 for all anesthesia-related costs.
Veterinarians charge different amounts for their services, so it pays to shop around. Factors that can affect your vet’s fee include:
- Equipment: Radiology is a significant investment for veterinary clinics. Equipment is costly to purchase and maintain. If your vet’s office uses a state-of-the-art digital X-ray machine (which emits up to 90 percent less radiation), your cost will likely increase. While quality equipment is a hallmark of practicing good medicine, those with a limited budget might find a veterinarian with older equipment, saving them a good chunk of change.
- Overhead costs: Property tax, rent, utilities, building maintenance, and insurance can affect your veterinarian’s fees. Like all business owners, veterinarians must pay these costs to keep their doors open. These expenditures will raise their fees. Overhead costs like these are why X-rays are typically more expensive in urban areas than rural locations. You may want to drive out of town to a rural facility to save money.
- Salaries: In a human hospital, fees are charged and paid separately. For example, if you break your leg, you will be changed by one doctor for the initial exam, billed by the radiology technician who took the X-rays, receive another bill from the radiology who read the X-rays—the list goes on and on. Veterinary hospitals combine all these services. They are a primary care office, radiology center and lab, rehabilitation clinic, and more. The amount of people providing your pet’s health care—and the salaries they receive—can affect your pet’s health costs.
Why Your Cat May Need An X-Ray
Your veterinarian may order radiographs for your furry friend for several reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons for requesting X-rays.
Radiography is the best way to spot a broken bone. Using an X-ray machine, your cat’s medical team can see the exact location and severity of the bone fracture. Thankfully, most breaks are easy to diagnose and require only one X-ray. According to PetMD, the most common fractures for cats are of the femur (thighbone), followed by the tibia (shinbone), pelvis, jawbone, paw, and tail.
“A fractured pelvis is a common injury in cats, and when we take an X-ray, we don’t just look to assess the fracture and whether it requires surgery, we also check the bladder and spine in case the trauma has caused other damage,” says Godfrey.
VCA Animal Hospitals recommends that cats have their mouths X-rayed yearly. Dental issues are challenging to spot in cats, especially because some cats never show that they are in pain. If your cat shows signs of swollen and inflamed gums, bad breath, tartar, or discolored or fractured teeth, they will need a dental radiograph. An X-ray is the only way your vet will know the whole scope of what’s going on under the gums.
If your kitty swallows something indigestible, such as string or another foreign object, a stomach radiograph will show where the object is located. Once located, your vet will decide if surgery is needed or if the problem will resolve independently.
Lung & Heart Problems
Chest X-rays can identify several lung and heart problems, including infections, asthma, and symptoms of heart disease.
Orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia, can be easily identified with radiography. Your vet may also use X-rays to monitor a chronic condition.
Diagnostic imaging, including X-rays and ultrasounds, is used to see how many kittens a momma feline carries and where they are positioned.
Radiographs and ultrasounds are used to direct kidney and bladder stones before removal.
X-rays can help your veterinarian spot certain types of tumors. While not consistently successful, radiography can be a less expensive approach to diagnosing certain types of cancer. In particular, bone cancer is easily identifiable by X-ray.
Our Personal Experience With Cats Getting X-Rays
“I had a cat named Snowflake who was deaf. He was a stray kitten I took in and liked to spend time both indoors and outdoors. Snowflake unfortunately got his tail run over by a car. The trauma caused significant damage, and we took him to the vet right away. Several tests, including X-rays, were performed. A radiograph was done, which revealed what are called Sacrocaudal fractures and pelvic fractures, which are common in tail-pull injuries. He also had nerve damage and damage to his urinary system. A CT scan was also done to check if there was damage to any internal organs.
The X-rays were helpful in providing a clear picture of the damage and setting a path for recovery. Recovery was long and took several months. Snowflake had limited mobility, needed medication, and had trouble at first controlling his urine. It was an intense few months of treatment and recovery. Thankfully, he retained mobility in the tail, and most of the nerve damage was repaired in about 6 months. His urinary function also returned to normal after healing. He had additional radiographs a few times during recovery to monitor his progress and healing.”– Danielle DeGroot, LYC writer and cat owner (over 30 years of experience)
How Pet Insurance Can Help
Money. It can be the deciding factor for whether your feline lives or dies. Unexpected veterinary care can put a serious strain on your budget, and making the decision to put your pet down (or let them live in pain) because you can’t afford their medical care is absolutely heartbreaking.
When you first get a kitten, the last thing you want to consider is preparing for any horrendous disease, disorder, or injury your pet could be subject to down the road. However, purchasing pet insurance for your kitty at a young age could make a massive difference in their quality of life and lifespan.
Treatments like x-rays, ultrasounds, biopsies, and blood tests may be needed to diagnose a condition as your pet ages. In addition, huge strides in treatment options are continually being made in veterinary medicine. Unfortunately, these procedures that could save your feline’s life may be unaffordable.
Purchasing pet insurance for your kitten at a young age is a helpful way to protect yourself against expensive health costs. Can’t you wait until your pet’s health declines? Unfortunately, no. Older pets may have pre-existing conditions that are excluded from coverage. Your best bet is to purchase insurance as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Prepare My Cat For An X-Ray?
There is typically no preparation needed for a radiograph. If your cat requires sedation, your vet may require that your cat fast six to eight hours before the procedure.
How Do Vets Take X-Rays In Cats?
Your vet will instruct you if your cat needs an empty stomach the night before X-rays. Once your cat has been admitted, they’ll be examined by the veterinarian and may be given an injection that contains a mild sedative. Sedation will help your fur baby relax and reduce the general anesthetic needed if anesthesia is required.
After the “premed” has taken effect, your cat will be prepped for X-rays. If anesthesia is needed, a small strip of hair will be shaved off the foreleg, and the leg will be cleaned. The anesthetic will be injected into the leg vein, and your cat will become unconscious immediately after. General anesthesia may require a breathing tube that assists with breathing. If this is the case, the tube will be inserted in your cat’s windpipe after they are asleep and connected by another tube to the anesthesia machine. The tube will be removed once the procedure is complete.
From there, it’s time for X-rays. A technician positions the radiography machine so that the X-ray beam targets the specific area of interest. To minimize radiation exposure, the technician will place a protective cover over body parts not being radiographed. Depending on the machine being used, images will be produced onto X-ray film or displayed digitally on a screen.
How much does a cat X-ray cost? If your cat needs X-rays, expect to pay $100 to $250 on average. Prices can fluctuate and can run upwards of $500. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your feline shows signs of a health issue. Your vet will decide if your feline needs a radiograph.
Remember, to avoid steep medical costs, consider pet insurance. Learn more about why cat insurance is worth it and what coverage is available.