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How Much Does a Dog MRI Cost? 2024 Price Guide

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Dogster Team

scanning dog head in magnetic resonance imaging (mri) machine

How Much Does a Dog MRI Cost? 2024 Price Guide

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is used in the veterinary world to see inside an animal’s body to look for problems. The MRI machine uses rotating magnets to take several pictures, producing a detailed image of soft tissues in the body, which can visualize the progress of a disease. Due to the technology, any veterinary treatment that uses MRI is not cheap. In general, an MRI for your dog can cost around $2,500 to $3,500. This article will explore how much an MRI costs for dogs in 2024.

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The Importance of MRI Diagnostics

MRI is usually used in dogs to look at the brain or spinal cord and search for problems such as cancer, lesions, or swelling. Veterinarians can also use them to look at the spinal cord if a dog becomes paralyzed, identifying if any herniated discs in a dog’s spine are putting pressure on the spinal cord and causing paralysis.

An X-ray machine wouldn’t see the soft tissue, so an MRI machine is used in its place because it provides clear pictures of the tissues and can diagnose problems that cannot be seen with other imaging techniques such as X-rays or CAT scans.

Another common reason dogs might need an MRI is seizures, as some seizures are caused by changes in the brain, such as the growth of a brain tumor. The MRI machine is an impressive diagnostic tool. However, your dog must be under general anesthetic to have the scan.

black dog having MRI scan
Image Credit: CameraCraft, Shutterstock

How Much Does an MRI for Your Dog Cost?

There are several factors to consider when trying to price an MRI for your dog. The amount you can expect to pay will depend on the area to be imaged, the number of images needed, the quality of the pictures from the MRI machine, and the geographical location where you’re getting the MRI done.

Some MRI scans can be as low as $1,000 for owners without insurance, such as those provided in exceptional circumstances by local clinics or training vet offices. However, it’s usually much more to get an MRI for your dog, and the price is typically around $2,500.

The average cost for MRI scans for your dog on the East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest proved hard to pinpoint, as prices are often personalized to your pet. PetMD quoted veterinary neurologist Philip Cohen as saying “$2,000 to upwards of $3,500” as a price for an MRI scan for your dog, which seems to mirror the consensus online from experts.

We have seen quotes up to $5,000 from some specialist clinics. However, we feel confident that getting an MRI for your dog won’t routinely cost less than $2,500, and the highest you’ll likely pay is $3,500. Your vet’s office should provide you with a total price and a price breakdown with your invoice before proceeding with any veterinary treatment.

Additional Costs to Anticipate

There are some additional costs to consider when getting your dog an MRI. These charges can include medication prices, the boarding of your dog in the clinic if they need to go in for further procedures overnight, admission fees, emergency care, and medication fees should your dog need it during anesthesia (however, this is very uncommon). After their MRI, there may be extra charges for any further treatment or other diagnostic imaging your dog may need.

How Long Will My Dog Be at the Vet for an MRI?

Your dog’s time at the vet during their MRI scan will vary depending on their needs. For example, the anesthetic time, the time for any medications to take effect, and the MRI scan can take 45 minutes to 2 hours to complete, depending on the area to be imaged, the amount of pictures needed to be taken, and who is performing the scan.

Generally, your dog will be in for part or all of the day, with results being given the same day along with a treatment plan when your dog comes home. However, this does differ significantly if your dog needs more or less treatment; sometimes, dogs can be in and out within 45 minutes.

vet checking up labrador dog
Image By: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

Does Pet Insurance Cover MRI Scans?

Fortunately, most pet insurance will cover MRI scans, depending on your reimbursement amount. For example, 90% coverage on $3,000 for an MRI scan means that $2,700 would be covered by your insurance. On the other hand, if you had 50% coverage, only $1,500 of the MRI cost would be covered; however, there are situations where the insurance may not cover an MRI scan.

If your dog’s MRI scan is used for a pre-existing condition, they may not cover it at all. Checking the terms and conditions in your insurance policy for clarification on this or asking a representative can help when facing the cost of your dog’s MRI.

What to Do for Your Dog Before Their MRI Scan

Before your dog’s MRI scan, keep calm and follow any veterinary instructions before bringing your dog in. For example, because dogs need anesthesia for an MRI (they have to stay completely still for a very long time), owners are often told to withhold food from their dogs for a certain amount of time before going under anesthetic.

This is because if they eat within the timeframe, they may vomit during anesthesia and aspirate their vomit (breathe it in). This can be fatal as it can cause irreparable damage to the airways, and it’s always imperative to follow your veterinarian’s instructions before your dog’s MRI. Make sure you keep your dog calm, keep yourself calm, and prepare any questions you might have for your vet when your dog is admitted to the surgery.

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It is universally stated that MRI imaging is costly in the veterinary world. However, MRI prices are fluid, and veterinary offices in different areas of the USA generally have higher or lower prices for things such as veterinary treatment. However, you can generally expect to pay over $2,000, which is why pet insurance is highly recommended in this situation.

Featured Image Credit: CameraCraft, Shutterstock

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