CT scans save pet lives– if you can afford it
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
President and Founder
Pets Best Insurance
Last month Torrey, my Teacup Chihuahua, and I attend the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC) in Las Vegas, a popular event for veterinarians’ continuing education. Vets keep up-to-date and meet their states’ continuing education requirements by attending such conferences.
Over 6,400 veterinarians and 2,000 technicians attended the annual conference this year to learn new treatments, surgeries, diagnostics and therapeutic agents for pets. They also visit a huge exhibition area to learn about pet health insurance, new technology, drugs, equipment and view a wide assortment of products and services that can be utilized by veterinary hospitals.
Pets Best Insurance exhibits at WVC each year to meet with veterinarians and their staff to help educate them about our pet health insurance and to answer any questions they have about how it works. We also like to get a perspective on how their clients, (our policyholders) view our coverage and service, and to inform them about any new plans, programs or benefits.
We know most veterinarians cannot take the time to fully research dog and cat insurance, but we do like for them to be comfortable with our pet insurance plans and with our company as a whole.
This was Torrey’s eighth WVC conference where she is always the smallest attendee. Torrey is always a hit with her diminutive size and fear-nothing bravado. Only a Chihuahua can bluff and intimate by sheer will, of which she is the queen. Torrey was much sweeter this year and was actually a good hostess in greeting attendees and getting her photo taken. Maybe she’s mellowing with age.
One piece of equipment now available for pets is a portable CT Scanner. This scanner, pictured with Torrey inside, is for the diagnosis of many diseases not detectable by other methods. This type of equipment, along with MRI units and Digital Radiography, can be very expensive. Despite the cost for some units in excess of $100,000, this technology can diagnose more quickly and efficiently, allowing for a much more effective prognosis and treatment.
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At one time this type of sophisticated equipment was only available for humans. The only pet use most veterinarians could get their hands on was after hours and on a very limited basis. This was obviously difficult at best. Now this technology is being used at some veterinary hospitals! However, the cost for a scan or MRI can run $800-1,200 for each diagnostic screening. And multiple screens are often necessary. You can probably see why having pet insurance is a good idea as soon as the tab comes. A good deal of the cost reflects the high cost of the equipment. However, unlike humans, pets must be placed under anesthesia to utilize the diagnostic ability of the equipment. Any patient, human or pet, must be perfectly still while being scanned. I know when I had my first MRI, it took all my will power to hold still and avoid having to be sedated. Otherwise the scans of the brain, spinal cord, muscle and other areas can be unreadable. Unlike the photo of Torrey standing in the unit, pets have to be positioned exactly over the suspect area of damage for several minutes or longer to develop the image necessary for an accurate diagnosis.
While the cost is high, the information provided by an MRI can help diagnose pets earlier and may reduce long-term treatment costs while saving lives. And of course, if you have a Pets Best Insurance pet health insurance plan like I do for Torrey, you won’t be facing the costs alone because Pets Best Insurance reimburses a high percentage of the actual vet bill.
Portable Multi-Detector CT pictured, by Universal Medical Systems