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Small Animal Nuclear Medicine

What You Need To Know About Nuclear Medicine

  • Aid in the diagnosis of obscure lameness
  • Aid in the detection of metastases in the axial and appendicular skeleton
  • Diagnosis of occult or undiagnosed fractures

Nuclear Medicine is a form of imaging that uses small amounts of a radiopharmaceutical to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases. The radiopharmaceutical delivers radioactive atoms to specific areas of the body. Radiation emitted by the atoms is shown through a gamma camera which provides more clinical information related to the pet. Animal Imaging provides nuclear medicine scans including Canine bone scans, thyroid scintigraphy, and trans-splenic portal scintigraphy.


The Bone Scan (also known as scintigraphy) is a great resource for diagnosing obscure lameness issues. The patient is injected with a radioisotope which is then distributed throughout the body over a 2-hour period. The radioisotope is localized in bone based on osteoblastic activity and therefore is an excellent and sensitive marker of bone disease. The bone that is stressed or remodeling due to an injury will absorb a disproportionate amount of the radioisotope. This will then appear as an area of increased radioisotope uptake, or a “hot spot”, on the gamma camera.


Portosystemic shunts are abnormal vessels which allow portal blood to bypass the liver and enter the systemic circulation. Portosystemic shunts can be congenital (genetic) or acquired.

​A diagnosis of portosystemic shunting is achieved at Animal Imaging with Trans-Splenic Portal Scintigraphy (also called Portal Scan). A small dose of radioisotope is administered under ultrasound guidance into the spleen. The passage of radioisotope is evaluated in real-time to determine if a macroscopic shunt is present and if the pattern of uptake supports a single congenital shunt or multiple acquired shunts.

​If shunting is confirmed, this procedure is complemented with an abdominal CT scan to further evaluate the intra-abdominal organs and further characterize the shunting vessel(s). If no shunt is noted on scintigraphy, an abdominal ultrasound is performed for further information.


The Thyroid Scan is the first of a two-step process when a feline patient is being considered for Radioactive Iodine Treatment (I-131) to treat hyperthyroidism. This first appointment helps us determine, from a nuclear medicine standpoint, if the patient is a good candidate for treatment. This appointment will also determine what dose of the I-131 would be needed to effectively treat the hyperthyroidism. This appointment is also used to discuss all risks, instructions, and concerns for the treatment process.

Radioactive iodine is an effective and safe treatment for hyperthyroidism. Patients are administered I-131 on Monday and hospitalized/boarded until discharge on Friday. Once home, the patient will need to be isolated for 2 weeks. Adult exposure is limited to 20 minutes per person, per day. No contact with any other animals, pregnant women or children during this time.

A report with findings will be generated by one of our Board-Certified Veterinary Radiologists 24-48 hours after the appointment. The report will be sent to the client and referring veterinarian upon completion.

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Animal Imaging – Veterinary Radiology

Your Veterinary Imaging Specialists