Diagnostic Imaging

Clarity creates confidence
Advancements in diagnostic technology, such as MRI and CT scanners have revolutionized human medicine, giving physicians a level of confidence in their diagnoses unimaginable just a few decades ago. The same caliber of technology has been brought to bear in veterinary medicine in order to advance veterinary medicine’s goal of obtaining good outcomes for our patients.
Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital utilizes many imaging techniques such as digital radiography, radiographic contrast procedures, ultrasonography, echocardiography, and high-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to help obtain accurate diagnoses and to guide effective therapy for your pet.

Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging Services

Diagnostic Imaging Interpretation

  • Radiograph interpretation via teleradiology*
  • CT Scan/MRI interpretation
  • In-patient imaging

* For teleradiology, please contact us at 604-514-8383 to set up direct transfer of images to our server or to facilitate DICOM or hard copy radiograph transfers.

Radiographic services

  • Digital radiography
  • Barium series
  • IVP
  • Myelograms
  • Contrast cystograms
  • Contrast urethrograms

Ultrasound Services

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Vascular ultrasound
  • Musculoskeletal ultrasound
  • Non-cardiac thoracic studies
  • Echocardiography
  • Ocular ultrasound
  • Pregnancy checks
  • Ultrasound-guided needle aspiration, centesis and biopsies
  • Intra-operative ultrasound support (with our surgeons)

Advanced imaging

  • Radiographic Specialty Services
    • Interventional Tracheal Stenting
    • Interventional Urethral Stenting
    • Interventional Radiology (IR) and Interventional Endoscopy (IE) with the support of our internist, cardiologist and surgeons.
  • 64-Slice CT Scans available on-site
    • Includes MEDRAD Stellant CT Injection System; an automated contrast injector enabling precisely timed contrast delivery during scanning – minimizing artifacts and maximizing diagnostic yield.
  • 1.5T MRI’s available on-site
Need a referral to Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital?

Why Choose Us for Diagnostic Imaging?

BBVSH offers full-time veterinary diagnostic imaging services; serving dog and cat owners throughout Vancouver, Surrey, Langley, Richmond, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Burnaby, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Chilliwack, the Interior and the Island as well as Bellingham, WA and northern Washington state. We invite you to consider the following reasons to entrust your pet’s imaging to Boundary Bay.
Rapid results, rapid advice

Our on-site Toshiba Aplio 300 ultrasound, 64 slice CT scanner with automated contrast injector, high-field (1.5T) MRI and Siemens flat-panel C-arm fluoroscopy unit ensures that nothing slows down a speedy diagnosis.


Primary care veterinarians are invited to contact our diagnostic imaging liaison to set-up teleradiology services.

Dedicated emergency and critical care ultrasound

Portable ultrasound allows for immediate ``bedside`` imaging for critical patients.

Interpreted by specialists

Criticalists and surgeons on-site 7 days per week for critical patients and those needing surgery. An internist and oncologists available for consults based on ultrasound findings.

Rapid cytology results

TNVD pathology lab is located next door for rapid turn-around of cytology results (the examination of blood or tissue cells); in critical cases, within 2 hours.


Meet Our Diagnostic Imaging Team

Dr. PJ Hamel


Board-Certified Radiologist

Dr. Astrid Nielssen


Board-Certified Internist

Dr. Megan Atwood



Diagnostic Imaging Service FAQs

What is a board-certified veterinary radiologist?

A board-certified veterinary radiologist is a veterinarian who diagnoses diseases by obtaining and interpreting medical images such as radiographs, ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs. In addition to completing an undergraduate university degree and four years of veterinary school, a board-certified veterinary radiologist is similar to his/her human-medicine counterpart in that he/she has completed a residency in the specialized field of radiology (an additional 3-5 years training). In addition to this extensive training, a board-certified veterinary radiologist must pass two rigorous examinations to achieve board certification from the American College of Veterinary Radiology.

What is a radiograph?

A radiograph is commonly referred to as an x-ray. It is a 2D image which can show structures under the skin such as bones and organs.

What is digital radiography?

Digital radiography is a form of x-ray imaging, where digital x-ray sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film. Advantages include time efficiency through bypassing chemical processing and the ability to digitally transfer and enhance images. Compared to conventional radiography, digital radiography is more sensitive and thus uses fewer x-rays (less radiation) to produce an image of similar contrast.

BBVSH uses digital radiography and has 2 digital radiography suites to cut down on wait times.

What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a non-invasive, non-painful diagnostic tool that uses sound waves to image the internal architecture of many organs. Sound waves are directed by a probe and are reflected back to the probe by tissue. Ultrasound is effective in finding abnormalities in tissues, because diseased and inflamed tissue often reflect sound waves differently from the healthy surrounding tissues or normal tissues. Normally, ultrasound will be performed on your pet in conjunction with other diagnostic procedures (e.g. blood work, radiographs, biopsies etc). Ultrasound by itself may not be definitive.

BBVSH has two ultrasound machines: one machine is dedicated to the emergency critical care service to help immediately diagnose life-threatening problems (this portable machine can be used “bedside” to avoid moving uncomfortable or critical patients); the second machine is used for in-depth diagnoses and specialized probes for both large and small animals as well as abdominal and cardiac probes are available.

What can be seen with ultrasound?

Ultrasound is very sensitive to changes within abdominal organs and allows precise measurement of heart chamber size and cardiac function. Sonographic changes within abdominal organs are not specific; many disease processes can have a similar appearance on ultrasound examination. Often it is necessary to obtain a needle sample or guided biopsy to determine the exact nature of the changes observed during an ultrasound examination. In general, ultrasound and radiographs (i.e. x-rays) are complementary. In fact, during ultrasound appointments we may request that you allow us to take radiographs if they have not already been done by your family veterinarian. Abdominal radiographs locate region(s) of change within the abdominal cavity and define changes in size, shape or density (e.g. regions of mineralization or gas production). Chest radiographs allow assessment of fluid build-up or abnormal tissue within the lungs and changes in the size and shape of the heart. As ultrasound cannot penetrate air filled structures or regions surrounded by air (i.e. the lungs), radiographs are a starting point to evaluate for heart failure or suspected masses within the chest.

What is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that uses a powerful magnet and radiowaves to produce detailed images of the body’s organs and structures, without the use of X-rays or other radiation.

A computer converts signals from the MRI scan into cross-sectional images of the part of the body that has been scanned. Many images are obtained and each image is a slice of the body area scanned. The images produced by MRI can be compared to a sliced loaf of bread. Just as you can lift each individual slice from the loaf and see both the slice and the inside of the bread, so too the image “slices” produced by the MRI show the details of the inside of the body.

MRI’s are often used to diagnose problems that occur in the brain, spinal cord, and joints.

BBVSH has a 1.5T MRI, which unlike low field magnets used by some veterinary hospitals, can produce images relatively quickly and provides for better diagnostic quality.

What is a CT scan?

A CT scan provides 3D images of bone, soft tissues and blood vessels. Unlike standard radiographs, CT images are 3-dimensional meaning that internal structures do not overlap thereby making diagnoses easier.
CT scans are a painless and non-invasive way to obtain diagnostic images. CT scans, especially those done with 64-slice CT scanners, are extremely fast, and in most cases can be done under sedation only.

BBVSH has a 64-slice CT scanner with an automated contrast injector. A 64-slice CT scanner is 4 times faster than a 16-slice scanner which can be helpful when scanning critical patients some of whom may not even require sedation.

What are CT scans used for?

CT scans may be used for:

  • Diagnosing diseases such as orthopedic disorders; head and neck and spinal cord conditions such as seizures, paralysis, and nasal discharge; and for evaluation of internal organs
  • Detecting internal injuries, internal bleeding, and foreign bodies
  • Diagnosing, staging, and monitoring cancer
  • Guiding procedures such as biopsies and surgeries

Diagnostic Imaging Appointment FAQs

How do I make an outpatient ultrasound appointment?

Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital strongly encourages animal owners to obtain a referral from their regular veterinarian whenever possible. This ensures the proper transfer of medical information, is beneficial to the animal and the specialty veterinarian, and will help your companion receive the appropriate care.

Once your veterinarian has sent a referral, we will contact you to set up an appointment. If you have not heard from us within 24 hours of your veterinarian sending a referral, please contact a client care representative at 604-514-8383.

If you need guidance, are unable to obtain a referral, or do not have a veterinarian, please contact a Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital client care representative at 604-514-8383.

Are there special instructions for my pet prior to the appointment?

For all ultrasound appointments, please do not feed your pet after midnight the night before the appointment; it is ok to give your pet water up until the appointment. Please call for further instructions if your pet is diabetic, is a puppy less than 16 weeks or weighs less than 4kgs.

For all abdominal ultrasounds, it is essential that the patient not eat for at least twelve hours prior to the procedure. Gas is the enemy of ultrasound. It makes the sound waves bounce back, obscuring the picture. Fasting your pet helps us see into the GI tract better, producing less gas and improving the amount of information we can get from the study. In addition, the patient needs to arrive with urine in the bladder to allow complete assessment of the bladder.

What should I expect at the ultrasound appointment?

When you arrive for your appointment, please check in with the receptionist. The receptionist will let the radiology service know that you have arrived. A BBVSH veterinarian will then meet with you will discuss with you the procedures that your veterinarian has requested. The BBVSH veterinarian will explain the risks and benefits of the procedures. If you wish to proceed with the recommendations, an estimate for these services will be provided, and a consent form for the procedures will be provided for you to sign prior to the ultrasound. You may accept or decline the recommendations.

How long will the ultrasound take?

Outpatient ultrasound patients are admitted to the hospital for the day and will have their procedure performed sometime during the day. The time of the ultrasound depends on the schedule of the ultrasonographer, the number of outpatient cases, the number of in-patient cases, and the severity of the clinical condition of the patients requiring ultrasound. We will call you when your pet’s ultrasound is completed and they are ready for pick-up.

The ultrasound procedure itself routinely takes 30-90 minutes; however, this is dependent on the type of ultrasound examination required and whether additional procedures are required.

What patient preparation is required at the hospital?

  • Blood work-Occasionally, blood work may be required before sedation or sampling. If your vet has not performed blood work, this may need to be done at BBVSH.
  • Shaving-The patient will need to have the hair shaved in the area that is being images by ultrasound because hair traps air and hinders the transmission of sound waves into the chest or abdomen.

Will my pet need sedation?

Some ultrasound examinations require no sedation or anesthesia; however, you will be asked to pre-authorize the use of sedation if required. Sometimes, a pet is nervous and sedation will help them feel more comfortable, decrease wiggling, stress or panting. Sedation also may be required if your animal needs an aspirate or biopsy.

How will I know if my pet needs additional procedures such as aspirates or biopsies?

Your family veterinarian may request that additional procedures such as aspirates or biopsies be performed if indicated by findings on the initial ultrasound. When you arrive at the hospital, a BBVSH veterinarian will let you know if your family veterinarian has requested aspirates or biopsies if there are abnormalities on the ultrasound. The BBVSH veterinarian will explain the risks and benefits of the procedures prior to the ultrasound. If you wish to proceed with the recommendations, a consent form for the procedures will be provided for you to sign and the procedures will be performed if indicated based on the ultrasound.

When will I know the results?

BBVSH will report the findings to your family veterinarian who will discuss all results with you. A written report will be sent to your veterinarian within 24 hours of the procedure. After the ultrasound, please contact your family veterinarian for these results and any follow-up treatment.

How will I get the results of aspirates or biopsies?

If ultrasound guided aspirates or biopsies are performed, those samples are sent to the lab. The lab results will take a few days and will be sent directly to your veterinarian. Please contact your family veterinarian for these results and any follow-up treatment.

Unstable Patients-Occasionally, a pet’s disease process may worsen very quickly and sometimes a pet can become unstable between the time an ultrasound is requested and the time the pet is brought to BBVSH. If your pet arrives in an unstable condition or has a life-threatening problem detected at the time of ultrasound, in consultation with your family veterinarian, we may recommend admission to the hospital.

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