Dogs Need Shielding, Too

A dog undergoing routine x-rays receives shielding.
A dog undergoing routine x-rays is shielded from radiation scatter and leaks by protective draping gear.

PETS, JUST LIKE PEOPLE, should have protection from radiation when they undergo x-rays. That’s the conclusion of a recent study from Oregon State University, which found that lead aprons and thyroid shields on the bodies and eyes of dogs significantly blocked harmful scatter radiation and leakage from x-ray tubes.

Till now, the common wisdom in veterinary medicine has been to forego shielding for dogs, cats and other domestic animals during routine x-rays. That’s because pets’ lifespans were deemed too short for cancers to develop from low-dose exposure. As a result, veterinary medicine offers plenty of protective products and advice for vets and their techs, but not much for their patients.

But the common wisdom is changing. In light of new evidence suggesting that pets’ shorter lifespans may go hand-in-hand with faster-forming cancers, Dr. Sarah Nemanic in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine studied the impact of protective shielding on dogs undergoing elbow radiography. In the journal Veterinary Record, Nemanic reports that shielding significantly decreased the dogs’ dosages of scatter and tube leakage radiation, with the greatest protective effect at the head.

“Reducing the radiation exposure to veterinary patients may be important to reduce their risk of developing cancer over their lifetime — especially in dog breeds such as German shepherds, labs and golden retrievers with an increased risk of tumors,” concludes Nemanic. “Even though the risks are low, it’s reasonable to decrease them further with shielding.”

Lyn Smith-Gloria coordinates marketing and communications in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.