YES, your healthy dog should get annual MRI’s for brain tumor screening. An MRI isn’t as expensive as you think, especially if it can catch a brain tumor early.
Cancer (which includes brain tumors) is the leading killer of dogs, and my parents’ German shepherd’s MRI showed a brain tumor. The veterinary neurologist told us, “I see this all the time.”
An MRI is definitive for diagnosing canine brain tumors.
A vet tech said that brain tumor risk rises once a dog reaches age six years. Once they reach age 10, there’s a 50 percent chance of developing cancer.
By the time the MRI was taken of the dog, the brain tumor was “fairly large,” noted the vet neurologist; he added that the brain tumor had “been there for a while.”
I wondered: Had the dog been getting MRIs every year routinely since, say, age five, the brain tumor would have been discovered when it was smaller, and thus would have possibly been treatable.
A dog can appear healthy, romping around like a puppy, with a vivid soul pouring out of its eyes — and all the while there’s a tumor growing in its brain, which is why only a few months prior to the diagnosis, the general vet declared him to be very healthy.
A “fairly large” tumor that had “been there for a while” certainly had been present a few months preceding the MRI finding.
Should any healthy dog get a routine MRI to screen for a brain tumor?
A lot of pet owners, after all, spend outrageous amounts of money on their pets (e.g., elaborate dog houses complete with custom made leather furniture and fancy rugs).
For this article I consulted with Dr. Michel Selmer, DVM, of Advanced Animal Care Center in Huntington, NY. He responded:
“Although you may find that people are willing to spend exorbitant amounts of money on their dogs,” begins Dr. Selmer, “if you did a study you would find only five percent of the pet population will spend over $1,000 per year on their dog’s medical expenses directed toward wellness and prevention.”
Dr. Selmer adds, “I believe if their pet was having seizures they would definitely have an MRI done. I am hard-pressed to believe if you asked them to have an MRI yearly, proactively to look for a tumor, they would say NO to the $1500 bill.
“They do love their elaborate doghouses, Gucci and Hermes collar and leash sets though…. sad, isn’t it…”
Is the routine MRIs safe for your dog?
“Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is primarily a medical imaging technique that’s most commonly used in radiology to visualize the detailed internal structure of the body,” explains Dr. Selmer.
“MRI provides much greater contrast between different soft tissues of the body than computed tomography (CT scan) does, making it especially useful in neurological (brain), musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and oncological (cancer) imaging. Unlike the CT, it uses no ionizing radiation, but uses powerful magnetic fields.”
A yearly MRI for your beloved dog’s brain tumor screening is a smart decision, and can ultimately save tons of money (canine cancer treatment is wickedly expensive), and that’s because the earlier a malignancy is caught, the less extensive treatment will be; that $1,500 investment every year could save your dog’s life.