The Average Cost of MRI for a Dog


Bryan Huynh

- Updated February 19, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Learn about the MRI procedure for dogs, and the benefits of investing in one
  • Explore the factors influencing the costs of an MRI and other financial considerations
The Average Cost of MRI for a Dog

An MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is a test that uses a strong magnet and radio waves to generate images of the dog’s internal anatomy in high detail. MRIs are a commonly used test by veterinarians due to their non-invasive nature and can avoid pain or discomfort. Unlike a CT scan, MRIs use no ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation, an energy that can be produced both naturally or artificially, can be dangerous and potentially cause damage to living, healthy tissue.


Understanding the MRI Procedure for Dogs

An MRI is a magnetic imaging test veterinarians use to more accurately visualize a dog’s internal systems and assess their functionality. It is non-invasive and valuable in a variety of scenarios. During this procedure, the dog will be placed inside a giant magnet and given an anesthetic to hold him still, allowing the radio waves to provide an accurate picture.

While there are a variety of other types of veterinary imaging available, such as CT scans or X-rays, most veterinarians prefer MRIs due to their non-invasive nature, as well as the fact that they tend to provide clearer images in most cases. However, there are some cases in which a dog may be ineligible for an MRI, and another type of imaging may be necessary. For example, one of the major drawbacks of an MRI is the need for an anesthetic, as not all dogs are compatible. For these pets, an MRI would not be an option.

An MRI can help veterinarians diagnose a variety of conditions, including disc tumors, herniation, or stenosis in the spine, brain tumors or inflammation, stroke, musculoskeletal diseases, and more. In many instances, these conditions would not be observable without image testing.

Factors Influencing the Cost of an MRI

Reason for the MRI

An MRI can be helpful in many scenarios, as many potential health conditions in dogs would not be observable without specialized image testing. MRIs can help veterinarians visualize certain conditions or pinpoint the causes of specific symptoms, allowing them to provide more effective and quicker treatment. There are a few factors that may influence the cost of this testing, but the price of an MRI is significantly less than the cost of treatment for an advanced health condition would be.


Diagnostic imaging requires the patient to remain as still as possible so that the images can appear as clearly and accurately as possible. However, many dogs struggle to stay still for long periods, especially in an unfamiliar environment, such as the vet’s office. When the dogs get nervous due to the testing, they start to squirm, which can negatively impact the quality of the images.

The amount of anesthesia needed, which can vary depending on the size, age, and breed of the dog being tested, can influence the overall price of the procedure. The cost of anesthesia can fall between $90 and $1,200, so it is best to inquire about the price with your veterinarian before the procedure.

Geographic Location

Another factor that directly affects the cost of the MRI procedure is the geographic location of the veterinary facility. Places where the cost of living is higher will typically charge more for the procedure. In addition, rural areas will typically charge more for their MRI services, as MRIs are less available to those who need them.

Type of Veterinary Facility

The type of veterinary facility you take your dog to for their MRI can also make a difference in the price. In most cases, the more specialized a facility is and the more experience their staff has, the more they can charge for their MRI procedures. While a veterinary MRI at a general clinic typically only costs around $2,000, a dog MRI at a specialized veterinary neurology clinic may cost as much as $5,000. The specialized clinic will be more equipped to provide prompt solutions once the issue is diagnosed.

Complexity and Duration of the Scan

The scan itself is a significant factor when determining the price of the procedure. Some conditions may require specialized image sequencing or expensive contrast agents to provide the images the veterinarian needs, increasing the overall cost. In addition, some situations require the veterinarian to scan multiple areas of the dog’s body, which would cost more than a procedure that only requires them to check one site.

Post-Scan Procedures

Lastly, most veterinary facilities will require additional fees for image interpretation by a specialized radiologist or neurologist. The cost of these additional fees tends to vary significantly between facilities, so it’s best to inquire about them before the procedure takes place to avoid getting blindsided by them.


Average Costs Breakdown

The general cost of an MRI for a dog can range widely, often costing between $2,000 and $6,000, depending on the factors listed above. In addition, you also have to factor in the additional costs associated with preparation for the procedure and follow-up consultations/ image interpretation.

While MRIs for dogs will typically be far more expensive than an X-ray (costing between $75 and $500) or a CT scan (costing between $1,500 and $3,500), they also tend to provide much clearer and more accurate results. This allows veterinarians to provide more accurate and optimized treatment for the dog’s condition, maximizing the chances of success.

Benefits of Investing in an MRI for Your Dog

There are many reasons that a veterinarian may recommend your dog for an MRI rather than one of the other types of imaging techniques. First and foremost, an MRI can provide a much clearer image of your dog’s internal anatomy, such as their nervous system, than any other imaging technique. It provides a shockingly accurate picture of your dog’s nerves, spinal cord, and brain.

MRIs can allow for detailed diagnosis with minimal intrusion. Unlike X-rays and CT scans, an MRI can provide a three-dimensional image with great detail. An MRI is very non-invasive, but it can still significantly aid the veterinarian in early detection of certain health conditions, allowing them to provide treatment as soon as possible. MRIs, unlike X-rays, don’t produce radiation, making them slightly safer in the long term.


Alternatives to MRIs and Their Costs


Like an MRI, an X-ray will require the dog to stay still while the scan occurs. When used only occasionally, X-rays are safe for your dog, as they only emit low radiation levels. Because they are static images, X-rays typically don’t require the dog to remain still for as long as an MRI would. As a result, they tend to be much cheaper. However, they also aren’t typically as accurate and can only provide a two-dimensional view.

CT Scans

There are a few cases in which a CT scan may be preferred over an MRI for a dog. First, a CT scan only takes 10 minutes to complete, whereas an MRI can take nearly an hour. Therefore, a CT scan will require the dog to remain still for a shorter period, resulting in the need for less anesthetic.

Unlike MRIs, CT scans do not use magnets. As a result, they cannot compare changes in fluid levels due to inflammation or internal bleeding. Because of this, CT scans tend to be used in cases where MRIs are considered excessive, but X-rays are insufficient.


An ultrasound is the second most common imaging technique used for dogs. They use sound to produce real-time photos of a dog’s tissue, allowing for more angles than an X-ray, as well as the assessment of blood flow. Unlike an MRI or CT scan, an ultrasound cannot see through bone.

Typically, an anesthetic is not needed for an ultrasound on a dog, as it does not require the patient to remain still. This is one reason that ultrasounds typically cost less than MRIs, ranging from $350 to $1,000 in most cases. Rural areas tend to have lower veterinary costs, while urban areas often charge higher prices due to higher expenses.

Financial Considerations and Cost Management

Pet Insurance

Most comprehensive pet insurance plans will cover the cost of diagnostic tests such as MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays when needed. There will often be terms and conditions associated with the coverage, so it is best to read the policy details and consult the insurance provider if necessary. The amount covered by the pet insurance will vary from policy to policy, with some covering the total cost while others require a specific copay.

Payment Plans or Financial Aid

Most veterinary facilities have payment plans or financial aid available for pet owners who cannot afford necessary procedures. It is best to ask the veterinary facility providing the service about such options before taking your dog in for an MRI.

Seeking Out Specialized Centers

Some specialized institutions offer discounts for certain procedures in the interest of research, such as educational clinics, as it can help their staff or students gain vital experience. You may want to shop around and check if any facilities near you are offering this type of program.

Expert Opinions and Insights

According to veterinarians, there are several indicators that your dog needs an MRI. The three main reasons are back problems, seizures, or partial to total paralysis. These, while not the only reasons, are often indicators of a severe health condition that needs treatment quickly. MRIs can help vets diagnose the problem and alleviate the symptoms immediately.

Some more subtle indicators that your dog may need an MRI include limping, lameness, stiffness, joint pain, neck or back pain, weakness, decreased coordination (especially in the legs), and more. While on their own, these symptoms may have causes that aren’t too concerning, if they persist or are accompanied by other symptoms, it is best to consult with a veterinarian, who will likely recommend taking the dog in for an MRI.


Advanced diagnostic tools, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging, are vital tools when it comes to veterinary care. They allow veterinary professionals to see the internal condition of your dog without the need for invasive procedures, which means that they can promptly provide the best treatment available, optimizing the chances of your dog’s full recovery.

Although MRIs can be expensive, they are used to diagnose and fix severe health conditions that, when left untreated, can significantly impact the dog’s quality of life or even be fatal. The longer these conditions go untreated, the more complex the treatment will be and the less likely it will result in a quick and fully effective recovery.

In addition, the longer these conditions, such as tumors, joint or spine injury, and diseases of the dog’s internal organs, go untreated, the more extensive the treatment will need to be. Not only does this treatment take longer, but it also tends to cost significantly more. This means that you’ll spend more money in the long run than the MRI itself would have cost.

When you notice your dog exhibiting any of the above symptoms, it is best to consult a veterinarian to properly weigh the cost of the procedure against the potential consequences of not having it done. If the price is an issue, options are often available that can help cover at least part of the cost, such as pet insurance, payment plans, or education facilities.

About The Author

Bryan Huynh

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a dedicated Product Tester & Writer. Just as insurance has your back, Bryan works to review and inform you about the wide range of insurance products available, ranging from business, auto, health, home, pet, to life insurance.

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