How Much Does a Dog MRI Cost?

Written by: Staff

A dog MRI, in most cases, will be reserved for diagnosing problems with the brain or the spinal cord after all other tests, such as a radiograph/x-ray, CAT scan or ultrasound, failed to determine the exact cause of the dog’s illness.  This procedure, as per Animal Wellness Magazine, is considered to be a very rare procedure due to the availability across the United States.

MRI by Muffet, on Flickr
MRI” (CC BY 2.0) by Muffet

How much does a dog MRI cost?

An MRI for a dog, just like a human, can be quite expensive.  When the MRI scan, anesthesia and monitoring are all factored in, most dog owners will be looking at $2,000 to $4,000 for the entire procedure as these machines, which often cost more than $1 million dollars need to be housed in a protected area to protect the rest of the hospital from its strong magnetic field.  Since a dog cannot simply stay still like a human, anesthesia is always required as a safety measure, greatly increasing the costs.  If you have pet insurance, some policies, depending on the circumstances and your policy, may cover the procedure.

We were able to contact a few vet hospitals in the United States and came up with an average of the costs we received via email in our table below:

1 site without contrast$900
1 site with contrast$1,250
2 sites with contrast$1,550
Additional sites without contrast$300 each

CompanionMRI, a veterinary hospital located in West Hartford, Connecticut, stated they charged $1,825 for one scan site and an additional $250 for each additional site if an anatomical MRI site is needed. states the costs for the MRI only can range from $1,100 to $1,500, but when you add the anesthesia, it is best to add another few hundred dollars. in its “The $60,000 Dog” article, they said the cost of an MRI scan could cost anywhere from $2,200 to $2,700.

The extra costs to consider

In some cases, an emergency reading may be available, depending on the hospital.  In this particular circumstance, if you needed the exam read immediately, this could cost an additional $100 to $250.

As indicated in the table above, a contrast enhancement may be required if the doctor needs to visualize some abnormal structures such as a tumor.  This material, which is injected, contains gadolinium and enhances the images in detail. states these substances are very safe and allergic reactions are very rare.

The MRI procedure

As mentioned, since a dog cannot stay still while inside the machine, the dog will be administered with a general anesthetic and then placed inside a giant magnet which will send radio waves into the body where a board-certified veterinary radiologist will conduct the test.  When this magnet is turned off, the body will release these waves, allowing the computer to create an image of the body in much greater detail when compared to other diagnostic-related scans.  Unlike an x-ray which uses radiation, an MRI is much safer because it will not require radiation to perform the scan.

The entire scan, depending on the number of scans required, can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes for up to six scans, which equates to close to 100 different pictures.

Tips to know

Most animals see very few side effects, with some animals either drowsy or clumsy in walking after the anesthesia wears off.  Seeing general anesthesia is a serious matter, especially for fraile or an older animal, doctors often see severe reactions which can oftentimes be life-threatening.  As for the MRI, the radio waves have no known serious side effects.

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