How Much Does a Dog MRI Cost?: Why It Is Expensive and What to Expect

Three Minutes
Jul 07, 2022

The cost of diagnosing your dog’s illness is nothing to sniff at — a dog’s MRI can cost up to $5,000! If your dog needs an MRI and you don’t have pet insurance, be prepared to spend a fair amount of time navigating the veterinary health system. Here’s what you can expect if your dog needs an MRI.

What Is an MRI?

An MRI — short for magnetic resonance imaging — can diagnose complicated medical issues better than a physical exam or a simple X-ray or CT scan. An MRI scan is a noninvasive way to diagnose a litany of conditions by creating a detailed, high-quality image of your pet’s body.

Why would my dog need an MRI?

A senior dog, a very active dog, or a dog with preexisting conditions are more likely to need MRIs. Your dog may need an MRI if other tests, like blood work, fail to determine why your dog is sick. MRI scans can reveal details of soft tissues and ligaments, including joints and ears.3 However, most MRI scans are used to diagnose brain and spinal issues. MRIs can diagnose many diseases that other scans miss, including:4

●      Small tumors

●      Strokes

●      Meningitis

●      Infections

●      Degeneration, like IVDD

How Much Does a Dog’s MRI Cost?

The cost of an MRI can vary widely depending on where you live, what facility you choose to use, and the complexity of your dog’s condition. MRIs are expensive for humans because the imaging machine costs millions of dollars to obtain.5 These machines use magnetic fields to create their detailed images and the entire process can take an hour or more. Radiologists, a type of veterinary specialist, are trained to use these machines, analyze their images, and care for your pet throughout the process.

Why does a dog’s MRI cost so much?

The cost of the machine and the specialists contribute to the costs of a dog’s MRI. It is very likely that your local vet doesn’t have a radiologist on staff. They may have to refer you to a specialist at another veterinary hospital or to an imaging center. Based on your referral, the specialist will prepare a quote for you. Be prepared to pay a consultation fee prior to receiving this quote which will include, but is not limited to:³

●      Anesthesia

●      Hospital stay

●      IV fluids and catheter

●      Staff monitoring

●      Blood tests

●      X-rays

The total of the quote will be impacted by the size of your dog, their age, and preexisting conditions. Work closely with your veterinary care team to negotiate the cost when possible. There are many options available if you cannot afford the cost of your dog’s care.

My Dog Needs an MRI: Now What?

Find out if your veterinarian’s practice has a diagnostic imaging department.6 Otherwise, you will need to get a referral. Don’t be afraid to shop around for a lower-cost option — there are some clinics that strictly provide imaging for pets for as low as $1000.7

Prepare to drop your pal off at their appointment time. Your care team will give you instructions on caring for them when you pick them up later that day. Your dog will need anesthesia because, unlike humans, they cannot stay perfectly still.2 Anesthesia side effects are rare since anesthesiologists tailor the medications to your pet and monitor them closely through the scan. By this point, you can trust that the care team will return your dog with minimal adverse effects.

After the scan, you will schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss the results. Then you’ll be able to figure out what to do next with your pup’s care.

Pet Insurance Might Cover the Cost of an MRI

Hopefully, you are not in this situation where your dog needs an MRI. If you have an older dog, the best thing to do is to keep up with their exams to catch issues while the conditions are treatable. A healthy, well-cared-for dog is every pet parent’s goal.

We understand that hearing “your dog needs an MRI” can be extremely stressful. The good news is that MetLife’s Pet Insurance has policies that could cover diagnostic scans for your pet.¹,2 Plan ahead and invest in your pet’s health so you can pick the best care team in their hour of need.

Protect your Dog

Coverage in 3 Easy Steps

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

3 “How an MRI Can Help Your Dog?,” PetMD

4How Much Does a Dog MRI Cost?,” Southeast Veterinary Neurology

5 “Why Does an MRI Cost So Darn Much?,”

6 “Diagnostic Imaging,” VCA Animal Hospitals

7 “How Much is a Low Cost MRI for a Dog?,” Bestie Paws