Veterinary Radiology

Veterinary radiology is an advanced branch of veterinary medicine that specializes in the interpretation of diagnostic images to help discover the underlying cause of animal diseases.

In much the same way as humans, veterinary radiologists capture and study radiographic pictures of bones, organs, and blood vessels, which can reveal fractures or a host of other illnesses such as arthritis, osteoporosis, pancreatitis, diabetes, and cancer in animals. Using imaging technology such as MRI scans, CT scans, ultrasound scans, nuclear medicine scans, and X-RAYs, vet radiologists can spot a growing tumor, a broken bone, or an abnormal accumulation of fluid. Animals can’t speak, and this is what makes treating them much more challenging.

Animals aren’t able to tell you their medical history, nor the root cause of what is exactly bothering them. As a veterinary radiologist, YOU will be part of an indispensable medical team who can help them get better.

Want to know more about vet radiology? Read on to find out what you can do to pursue this exciting career!


What is veterinary radiology?

veterinary radiologyVeterinary radiology is the field of veterinary medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases visualized from cross-sections within the body of an animal. Veterinary radiologists may write up comprehensive reports using various software applications to evaluate image results for diagnosis, provide specialty consultations referred to them, and supervise the activities of veterinary technicians or attending veterinarians taking the scans. The decrease in animal lifespan can be attributed to the rising number of pets that suffer from more complicated diseases not easily discerned by the naked eye. Fortunately, these diseases can now be easily identified by the use of radiologic equipment. Veterinary radiologists are also trained to read and analyze the following:

• Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans
• Computed Tomography (CT) Scans
• Ultrasound Scans
• Nuclear Medicine Scans
• Radiographs

Thus, it is the job of the veterinary radiologist to accurately deduce images produced by these equipment to establish what is wrong with the animal in their care.


How do I become a veterinary radiologist?

A doctorate degree or higher is required to enter the field of veterinary radiology. To achieve this, one must first apply and be accepted into veterinary school to complete their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. After successfully graduating and becoming a licensed practitioner, an aspiring vet can then begin to accomplish the requirements that will lead to board certification in the specialized field of radiology. Students must then complete a 1 to 2 year internship and a multi-year residency in the field, under the supervision of a board certified radiology diplomate.

Residencies generally cover several clinical service areas. Some of these areas include:

• CT Angiography
• Abdominal Imaging and Molecular Imaging
• Nuclear Medicine/Computerized Tomography (CT)
• Small and large animal Ultrasound

The board certification exam for veterinary radiology consists of both written and oral components, while the exam for radiation oncology consists of all written components. This exam is administered by the American College of Veterinary Radiologists (ACVR).

A diplomate status in the veterinary specialty of radiology or radiation oncology will be granted to all those who successful pass the board exam.

It is also worth noting that board passers must complete continuing education credits each year to maintain their board-certified status, and to be constantly updated with regards to new techniques in the field. These credits can usually be earned by attending lectures, seminars, and participating in wet labs.


How much can I expect to earn in the field of veterinary radiology?

veterinary radiologistSurvey results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that the entire veterinary profession will grow at a rate of approximately 36 percent until the year 2020, a much faster rate compared to that of all other professions. Veterinarians who achieve board certification should continue to enjoy very strong job prospects in the field. The BLS also reported a median annual wage of $82,900 for veterinarians in general based on their salary survey conducted last 2010. The lowest ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of less than $50,480 each year while the highest ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of over $141,680 each year. In a 2009 salary survey conducted by DVM 360 magazine, data showed that those in the field of veterinary radiology earned an average salary of $152,995.

Veterinary radiology was the 6th highest paying veterinary specialty that year, with the BLS predicting more job opportunities for this career in the years ahead.


Final Considerations

As a veterinary radiologist, you may choose to focus solely on a particular animal species, or a category of interest such as small and large animals, equine, or exotics.

While most radiologists have their own private practice, there are also options to work in academia or in the research industry.

It is the attending veterinarian’s duty to diagnose and treat diseases in animals, but they cannot effectively do so without the help of radiographic images that can precisely identify problem areas.

This is where you come in—as a veterinary radiologist, your clinical interpretation of radiographic images will become a very important factor in the determination of the proper course of treatment to take.

Thus, veterinary radiology is a career that will require you to think logically and have hawk-like eyes to spot even the tiniest details. Whether it is a small lesion or a hidden fracture, you can help piece the puzzle that can save an animal’s life.




<– Back to Veterinary Careers page