Are X-rays Safe For Pregnant Dogs?

Many of us have heard about the potential dangers of radiation exposure. X-ray technicians often gown up to protect themselves from harmful rays, causing you to wonder if the xray is harmful for our canine friends as well. So are x-rays safe for pregnant dogs and their unborn puppies?

In this article we will discuss the basics of x-ray safety for our pregnant canine friends, and why a dog would require an x-ray during pregnancy in the first place.

Why Would A Pregnant Dog Need X-rays?

Are Xrays Safe For Pregnant Dogs

If you have a pregnant pup in your home, you may be wondering how to best prepare for the birth of their puppies. Much of the stress can come from not knowing how many puppies your dog is bringing into the world, or what to expect from their labor process. It is impossible to know the exact number of puppies to expect without diagnostic imaging, which is why many dog owners and breeders prefer to get puppy counts with radiographs.

A puppy count via x-ray is the most accurate way to know how many puppies a dog will have. X-rays will show just how many puppies are in the uterus, as well as allow your vet to compare the fetus size to the size of your dog’s pelvic canal. This is not only helpful for knowing when your dog has completed the birthing process, but also in anticipating any birthing difficulties due to puppy size.

Another reason that some pregnant dogs have x-rays performed is due to birthing difficulties and dystocia. If your dog is in active labor and unable to pass some or any of the puppies, many vets will perform a radiograph to confirm whether or not any puppies are still present in the birth canal. This is common in dogs that have not had any imaging performed previously, so the owners are unaware of how many puppies to expect.

Best Time To Get An X-ray

X-rays are extremely helpful in preparing for your dog’s birthing process, but they are only effective at a certain point. It takes about 45 days for the puppies’ bones to mineralize in the uterus, meaning they cannot be seen on x-ray before this point. If the x-rays are performed too early in a dog’s pregnancy, it will be ineffective in offering any answers. The best time to perform x-rays for a puppy count is one week prior to the expected due date. If you are just looking to diagnose pregnancy in your canine friend, you can always have an ultrasound performed as early as 3 weeks along.

Difference Between Ultrasound & X-rays For Pregnant Dogs

So how do x-rays differ from ultrasound when discussing canine pregnancy? Though both tools may be used for diagnostic purposes, they do shine in their own ways. For example, an ultrasound is the earliest way to accurately diagnose pregnancy in a dog. An ultrasound can check for heartbeats, measure fetal sacks, as well as offer an estimated puppy count. Puppy counts performed via ultrasound are helpful, but are not 100% accurate. Without having a full view of the uterus all at once, there is no way to offer an exact count.

X-rays are useful for pregnant dogs when performed 45 days after conception, as well as being used in diagnosing dystocia. X-rays can offer a full picture of what to expect when your dog gives birth, but they cannot confirm life or the general health of the growing puppies. An x-ray is just a still image, so it cannot indicate a heartbeat. As you can see, both ultrasounds and x-rays have their place in canine pregnancy diagnostics.

Are X-rays Harmful To Dogs?

If radiation is ever involved, there will always be some risk. X-ray technicians around the world rely on protective gear to block radiation exposure, but this is mostly to protect against prolonged radiation exposure. When your pregnant dog has an x-ray performed, they will be exposed for 1-3 images on average, making the amount of radiation exposure limited.

Most veterinarians agree that the small amount of radiation from x-rays is well outweighed by the pros of having this diagnostic performed. It is also important to note that by the time the puppies can be seen on x-ray (45 days), they have already completed much of their critical development. This means the puppies have a low risk of developing complications from radiation.

Radiation may be linked to cancer in humans and animals, but this is again due to cumulative exposure in most cases. The few images taken do not fall under this category of radiation exposure. So to address the question of whether or not x-rays are safe for a pregnant dog, the answer is yes.

Final Thoughts

X-rays can offer a list of benefits for our pregnant canine friends. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can determine the best pregnancy plan for your pup going forward.

There are 2 comments:

  • Jeff Crane at 1:54 am

    Dear Amber, What’s your experience in high altitude effecting the health of a pregnant 4 year old vizsla in her late 2nd trimester? I live at sea level and may be taking our dog to around 6000 feet for a couple of days. Thanks, Jeff

    • Amber LaRock at 5:57 pm

      Hi Jeff,

      Altitude changes can certainly impact our canine friends as well. Dogs can struggle in certain altitudes as their body adjusts to the decline in oxygen around them, leading to the onset of altitude sickness. However, most complications only occur once a dog reaches 8,000 feet and higher. I would not expect any complications for your pup at 6,000 feet. However, you should try your best to limit any stress throughout your travels, as well as monitor for any signs of altitude sickness. Monitor your dog for any excessive panting, drooling, weakness, vomiting, or disorientation. I would also refrain from engaging in any hiking our vigorous exercise, as this may put additional strain on her with the change in altitude. We have also written about pregnant dogs and altitude.

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