Oakham veterinary hospital is now able to offer computed tomography (CT) for horses and pets in our new purpose-built facility. Computed tomography is a form of X-ray, where multiple images are obtained from different angles allowing a ‘virtual slice’ of a patient to be created.

Images can be recreated to form a three-dimensional reconstruction, allowing us to look inside a range of structures that would be otherwise impossible to visualise. CT imaging is ideal for examining bone or soft tissue structures of the head and neck of horses, or anywhere in the dog or cat. The only limitation is the size of the machine.

Our CT scanner can be used to obtain images of the head and neck in standing horses, allowing us to visualise the teeth, sinus, joints of the head and neck. Horses and pets can be anaesthetised to undergo imaging of the different parts of the body. CT imaging is very quick, compared to MRI, so animals need only be anaesthetised for very short periods.

Should my horse have CT or MRI?

CT and MRI are similar techniques, in that they both produce cross-sectional ‘slices’ of tissue and both are offered at Oakham Veterinary Hospital. MRI is primarily used to document soft tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, joints or brain tissue. Our MRI scanner is for use in the standing horse and therefore is undertaken without the need for anaesthesia. CT is primarily used to investigate bone or abdominal diseases.

Imaging the head

CT is particularly useful for the investigation of problems of the head, since the three-dimensional structure of the head makes interpreting x-rays very difficult. We use CT to document dental disease and other causes of nasal discharge or bleeding. We can also evaluate the joints of the jaw (temporomandibular joint), which is important in horses with head-shaking.

Imaging the neck

CT can be used to examine the whole of the horse's neck in three dimensions. This is particularly useful in identifying causes of neck pain or neurological conditions that make horses unsure on their feet (Wobblers syndrome). The joints of the horse's neck are complex and can develop arthritis similar to any other joint causing pain and stiffness. While we can identify these with xrays, when the disease has become more severe, subtle changes can be missed and therefore treatment can be delayed. While undertaking CT imaging of the neck, it is sometimes necessary to inject a dye into the spine (a myelogram) to document any spinal cord compression.

Imaging the legs 

CT imaging can be used to document changes in bones and joints, and using special techniques, the tendons and tendon sheaths. This can be very useful diagnostically and will sometimes be undertaken immediately before surgery to improve our surgical planning.