The Cost of Vet X-rays

X-rays are one of the most common diagnostic tools used in medicine–for both humans and animals. Of course, the process of x-raying a dog is much different than x-raying a human and there are many different factors that go into how much it might cost. 

Takeaway Points

  • X-rays for your dog typically cost between $150 to $250
  • Depending on the case, x-rays can cost a lot more
  • An x-ray is an important diagnostic tool and can even save your dog’s life!
  • There are many different factors in x-ray costs
  • Some pet insurance plans cover x-rays and some do not

How much do vet x-rays cost? 

This is a fairly common question that most pet owners will ask at least once during their pet’s lifetime. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer! Most likely, your veterinarian will need to evaluate your pet first in order to give you an accurate estimate. 

According to Pawlicy Advisor, an American Animal Hospital Association trusted source for pet insurance analysis, the average cost of a dog x-ray can range from $150 to $250. Keep in mind, this is just the individual x-ray. It’s common for more than one x-ray to be needed and there are other parts to the process. 

Depending on the situation, the total x-ray procedure could be several hundred or more. This is because there are many factors that may affect the overall cost of your dog’s x-rays. Here are some of the most common.

Sedation

First and foremost, sedation is a major factor. When taking x-rays, dogs need to lie completely still on an x-ray table. Depending on the body part being x-rayed they also may need to be positioned a certain way or have their limbs held straight out. Unfortunately, it’s extremely rare for a dog to be able to do this without some level of sedation, especially if they are in pain or frightened. If sedation is not given, the x-rays may come out blurry and need to be repeated and the dog will endure additional unnecessary stress. 

When it comes to sedation, the size of your dog also comes into play. The dosage of drugs needed for a 5-pound Chihuahua versus an 80-pound Rottweiler will be vastly different. Ask any Great Dane owner, they’ve probably spent a pretty penny on x-rays at some point! In short, the larger the dog, the higher the cost.

The type of sedation being used may also affect cost. There are different sedation protocols and some hospitals may stock different types of drugs based on location and availability. Overall, sedation can add anywhere from $50 to $300 to your dog’s x-ray costs based on the type and dosage of sedation drugs. 

Type of illness or injury

Your dog’s particular illness or injury will also play a role in determining cost. A dog with a broken leg versus a dog having trouble breathing and needing chest x-rays will be very different. Some dogs will need multiple views of x-rays in order to see the full picture. 

A dog with traumatic injuries such as being hit by a car or falling from a high elevation will often need multiple x-rays of multiple body parts. They also may need special handling, additional sedatives, or pain medications during the x-ray process. All of these factors can increase the overall cost. 

Whether or not a Radiologist is involved

Whether or not your dog’s x-rays are being read by a Veterinary Radiologist is another factor in cost. Veterinary Radiologists are specialists that have undergone advanced training and certification to become experts in their field. They interpret many forms of specialized imaging including x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, and CT scans. 

You may be familiar with this concept in human medicine. You may go to the hospital with an injury and an x-ray will be taken. After the x-ray, the attending doctor will often be waiting on the radiology report to be able to give you a final diagnosis. This is common in veterinary medicine as well, especially for complex cases. 

Type of Veterinary Hospital

The type of veterinary hospital you are visiting is another factor that may affect cost. A small primary care practice versus a large specialty hospital or emergency hospital will have very different pricing structures. Many people expect all veterinary practices to be the same but that is not always the case. 

The location of the veterinary practice you visit can also affect pricing. A clinic in a rural town versus one in a big city will have price differences. Veterinary hospitals that are located in cities with higher cost-of-living rates. Places like New York, Los Angeles, or Miami will undoubtedly have higher fees due to higher operating costs.

What reasons would my dog need an x-ray?

There are many reasons your dog may need an x-ray. Some may be straightforward like an obvious injury such as a broken leg. Others may be more complex like a swollen abdomen or a history of persistent coughing. Your veterinarian will assess your dog’s symptoms and medical history and then make their recommendations.

Unfortunately, our dogs can’t tell us exactly where it hurts or for how long it’s been bothering them. A dog’s illness could go unnoticed for a while until they start to display outward signs like not wanting to play or eat. An x-ray can help the veterinarian diagnose what’s wrong or at least rule out some common issues. 

A dog may need x-rays if they are showing signs of:

  • Broken Bones or Fractures
  • Blockages or Foreign Objects in the Stomach
  • GDV, also known as Bloat
  • Enlarged Organs (Liver, Spleen, Gallbladder, etc)
  • Trauma or Injury (Hit-by-car, Falls, etc)
  • Coughing or Suspected Heart or Lung Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer or Tumors
  • Stones (Bladder, Gallbladder, or Kidney)
  • Dental Issues
  • Other Signs of Illness or Injury

In some of these cases, an x-ray can mean catching a fatal condition before it’s too late. It’s important to remember that your veterinarian is there to help your pet and if they recommend an x-ray it’s for a good reason!

Does pet insurance cover x-ray costs?

It’s a common misconception that all pet insurance covers x-rays. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are many different options for pet insurance plans and they all have different stipulations. 

Some pet insurances only cover emergencies. These may cover x-rays for an injury after an accident, but not if your vet suspects arthritis or hip dysplasia at a routine check-up. Other pet insurance may only cover routine care and not an accident or injury. 

Most pet insurance plans do not cover preexisting conditions. If your dog has a history of a specific injury such as torn ligament, any future x-rays related to that condition may not be covered. This is why it is recommended to get pet insurance right away if you get a puppy!

Some insurance plans have clauses for what is known as “curable preexisting conditions” for things like ear infections, bladder infections, and some gastrointestinal conditions. Once a time limit has passed (determined by the insurance company) these conditions can again be covered. If your dog needed abdominal x-rays due to vomiting, whether or not that would be covered could be based on if they’ve had other bouts of vomiting during that time period. 

Pet insurance can be tricky! Figuring out what is and isn’t covered is not always straightforward. Just like us, pets can develop complex medical issues that require lengthy hospital stays. When choosing a pet insurance policy it’s a good idea to review several companies and always read the fine print!

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Lauren Rey

Lauren is a copywriter and content writer with a background in veterinary marketing and communications. Throughout her career, she saw many animals come through veterinary hospitals with preventable illnesses or injuries and took a special interest in pet owner education. Now she loves researching and writing about all things pets! Lauren lives in Florida but is always plotting out a new road trip route with her partner-in-crime, Pickles. Pickles is a rescue dog that loves hiking, road trips, and Starbucks just as much as her mom does!