Industry Insights

The Wonderful, Colorful World of Veterinary Thermography.

Thermography at ASGvets

Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI) or thermography is a highly sensitive diagnostic test that scans and measures infrared radiation or heat at the body’s skin surface. These measurements are translated into an accurate graphic image called a ‘thermogram.’

by Debra Voulgaris, DVM, MA, CVA, CCRP, CCT,
Certified Tui-na Practitioner, Certified Veterinary Ozonotherapy

It has been long recognized that changes in skin temperature are under the sympathetic control of the autonomic nervous system. In healthy individuals, the thermogram shows up as a unique thermal ‘fingerprint’ with a high degree of symmetry between right and left sides of the body. However, in times of dysfunction or disease, this thermal pattern is altered alerting us to a potential problem.

What makes thermography different?

Unlike other diagnostic tests such as radiographs (x-ray), magnetic resonance (MR) and ultrasound that utilize differences in tissue densities, thermography utilizes physiology and function for results. While it is not intended to replace other diagnostic imaging tests recommended by your veterinarian, its value is in its ability to screen and detect dysfunction early, in many cases weeks before it would be clinically apparent or detectable by other diagnostic tests.

Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging is extremely cost effective in that it allows us to hone in and localize the dysfunction, eliminating numerous expensive and unnecessary tests. Early and focused detection of pathology leads to a quicker diagnosis and generally leads to an improved outcome for your animal companion.

Thermography is a unique, highly sensitive test that is:

  • Non-invasive
  • Cost effective
  • FDA approved
  • Radiation free
  • Does not require that sedation or anesthesia be administered to your animal companion
  • Can be done in your home or barn

How can thermography benefit my animal companion?

Thermography has many applications and is used, but not limited to the following:

  • Evaluating pain
  • Wellness screening/early detection program
  • Assessing lameness
  • Ligament, tendon, or muscle sprains and strains
  • Infections
  • Inflammatory processes
  • Neurological dysfunction
  • Malignancies
  • Vascular dysfunction
  • Stress Fractures
  • Musculoskeletal Injuries
  • Monitoring healing and response to treatment
  • Pre-purchase exams and saddle fit

Thermography helps us see the pain

Pain is a subjective experience due its interpretive nature, and different individuals will uniquely experience a noxious or painful stimulus of equal intensity. Animals cannot tell us that they are experiencing pain, or that the pain medications we are giving are not helping.

Pet guardians are often concerned or unsure if their animal companions are experiencing pain and don’t know what signs to look for. Recognition of pain can be very difficult, especially for stoic animals and even veterinarians can have difficulty determining if a patient is in pain and/or to what degree. Giving an objective measure of the pain response is one the most relevant uses for veterinary thermography as the foundation for quality of life is comfort.

Although there are certain criteria that veterinarians can use to rate pain levels in animals, much of it is guesswork, which can often lead to inappropriate pain management. Thermal imaging gives a graphic display of the subjective feeling of pain by objectively displaying the changes in skin surface temperature that accompany pain states This allows us to recognize it, treat it and monitor response to therapy.

About the equipment

Animal Specialty Group uses the Meditherm Vet2000 imaging system, which is the only Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging System specifically designed for veterinary applications. It is capable of measuring temperatures in increments of 0.01°C and is optimized for temperatures between 17°C and 40°C. Image pixels are 320 x 240 with high definition images interpolated to 640 x 480. Focal range is from 3.0 cm to infinity.

Diagnostic results obtained are totally objective and show excellent correlation with other diagnostic tests. For more information, visit

REFERENCES: [1] Rassiwala M1, Mathur P2, Mathur R3, Farid K3, Shukla S3, Gupta PK4, Jain B4. Evaluation of digital infra-red thermal imaging as an adjunctive screening method for breast carcinoma: a pilot study. Int J Surg. 2014 Dec;12(12):1439-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2014.10.010. Epub 2014 Nov 7; [2] Tunley BV1, Henson FM. Reliability and repeatability of thermographic examination and the normal thermographic image of the thoracolumbar region in the horse. Equine Vet J. 2004 May;36(4):306-12; [3] Grossbard BP1, Loughin CA, Marino DJ, Marino LJ, Sackman J, Umbaugh SE, Solt PS, Afruz J, Leando P, Lesser ML, Akerman M. Medical infrared imaging (thermography) of type I thoracolumbar disk disease in chondrodystrophic dogs. Vet Surg. 2014 Oct;43(7):869-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-950X.2014.12239.x. Epub 2014 Jul 8. [4] Biondi F1, Dornbusch PT, Sampaio M, Montiani-Ferreira F. Infrared ocular thermography in dogs with and without keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Vet Ophthalmol. 2015 Jan;18(1):28-34. doi: 10.1111/vop.12086. Epub 2013 Aug 1. [5] Infernuso T1, Loughin CA, Marino DJ, Umbaugh SE, Solt PS. Thermal imaging of normal and cranial cruciate ligament-deficient stifles in dogs. Vet Surg. 2010 Jun;39(4):410-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-950X.2010.00677.x. Epub 2010 Apr 29. [6] Redaelli V1, Tanzi B, Luzi F, Stefanello D, Proverbio D, Crosta L, Di Giancamillo M. Use of thermographic imaging in clinical diagnosis of small animal: preliminary notes. Ann Ist Super Sanita. 2014;50(2):140-6.DOI: 10.4415/ANN_14_02_06. [7] Waddell RE1, Marino DJ, Loughin CA, Tumulty JW, Dewey CW, Sackman J. Medical infrared thermal imaging of cats with hyperthyroidism. Am J Vet Res. 2015 Jan;76(1):53-9. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.76.1.53. [8] Questions and Answers: Animal Care’s Use of Thermography


Animal Specialty Group

DVM, MA, CVA, CCRP, Cert. Tui-na Practitioner

Dr. Debra Voulgaris attended Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University. After 2 years in general practice, she became extensively trained and board certified in veterinary acupuncture, canine rehabilitation and Tui-na Practice. Dr. Voulgaris currently sits on the IVAS exam committee, which sets standards for acupuncture certification among veterinarians, and is one of the leading veterinarians in her field.