how much does an MRI for a dog cost?

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How Much Does an MRI for a Dog Cost? | Dog MRI
Posted by Jennifer Maniet, DVM on Dec 23 2019

Veterinary medicine is constantly evolving to offer sick pets better treatments and therefore, better chances at living longer, healthier lives. One way this is possible is through the advancement of diagnostic tests.

Take magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for example. This test allows us to evaluate the inside of the body in a noninvasive way. MRIs play an important role in investigating illnesses and injuries since our furry companions cannot communicate their symptoms. Unfortunately, MRIs cost an average of $2,000 or more!* That's a lot to pay out of pocket if you don't have pet insurance. 

How does an MRI work?

An MRI machine is a large tube-like structure that uses both magnetic fields and radio waves to create images that veterinary specialists can then interpret.** A dog MRI is conducted in the same way an MRI is done for humans: Patients must lie very still in the enclosed machine sometimes for over an hour. Have you ever asked a dog or cat to sit still for more than a few seconds? Then you understand why general anesthesia is often required for our pets to have an MRI scan done.

Preparing your pet for an MRI checklist

❏ Discuss with your veterinarian the advantages and disadvantages including risks of anesthesia and cost.

❏ Make an appointment for a neurology consultation at a specialty hospital.

❏ Plan for blood work prior to the MRI.

❏ Prepare for a long day due to the procedure time and hospitalization.

❏ Submit a pre-authorization request if your pet is already enrolled in an insurance policy. This request will verify coverage before the MRI is performed so there are no surprises in coverage afterwards.

What does an MRI show us?

MRI scans are ideal for comparing soft tissues such as the brain, spinal cord, ligaments, tendons and abdominal organs. The MRI offers a more detailed picture compared to other imaging diagnostics, such as radiographs.**

If your pet suffers from symptoms such as seizures, lameness or limping, joint pain, neck or back pain, paralysis or behavioral issues, then your veterinarian may recommend an MRI.

Conditions commonly diagnosed by an MRI:

  • Brain diseases detected by an abscesses, inflammation or a tumor/mass
  • Spinal cord diseases detected by herniated discs, stenosis or a tumor/mass
  • Diseases of the abdomen detected by organ enlargement or tumor/mass
  • Musculoskeletal diseases detected by soft tissue injuries such as shoulder instability and cruciate ligament rupture

Comprehensive pet insurance to the rescue

At 12 years old, Fred,†** a West Highland White Terrier, started having seizures. A neurologist recommended an MRI and a mass was found in Fred’s brain. This meant that Fred could start the appropriate therapy right away, thus improving his quality of life.

Fred already had an insurance policy which covered all the veterinary recommended diagnostics and treatments, including the MRI. Pet insurance is evolving to meet our needs and may help with the cost of advanced imaging diagnostics. Most pet insurance companies cover advanced diagnostic imaging for illnesses or injuries (as long as they are not for a pre-existing condition). 

Fred’s parents were faced with the decision to pursue advanced diagnostic imaging and take on the large bill that came with it. Thankfully, Fred was Petplan-protected, which meant the freedom to say yes to the very best care. His parents were reimbursed $10,989!‡ Imaging diagnostics such as MRI may be able to create a clearer picture about your sick pet’s illness or injury.

*According to Petplan claims data.

**Merck Veterinary Manual

†Names have been changed to protect privacy.

‡According to a Petplan paid claim in 2018 in accordance with policy specifications