BACKGROUND: The reliability and validity of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for detecting neoplastic, inflammatory, and cerebrovascular brain lesions in dogs are unknown. OBJECTIVES: To estimate sensitivity, specificity, and inter-rater agreement of MRI for classifying histologically confirmed neoplastic, inflammatory, and cerebrovascular brain disease in dogs. ANIMALS: One hundred and twenty-one client-owned dogs diagnosed with brain disease (n = 77) or idiopathic epilepsy (n = 44). METHODS: Retrospective, multi-institutional case series; 3 investigators analyzed MR images for the presence of a brain lesion with and without knowledge of case clinical data. Investigators recorded most likely etiologic category (neoplastic, inflammatory, cerebrovascular) and most likely specific disease for all brain lesions. Sensitivity, specificity, and inter-rater agreement were calculated to estimate diagnostic performance. RESULTS: MRI was 94.4% sensitive (95% confidence interval [CI] = 88.7, 97.4) and 95.5% specific (95% CI = 89.9, 98.1) for detecting a brain lesion with similarly high performance for classifying neoplastic and inflammatory disease, but was only 38.9% sensitive for classifying cerebrovascular disease (95% CI = 16.1, 67.0). In general, high specificity but not sensitivity was retained for MR diagnosis of specific brain diseases. Inter-rater agreement was very good for overall detection of structural brain lesions (j = 0.895, 95% CI = 0.792, 0.998, P < .001) and neoplastic lesions, but was only fair for cerebrovascular lesions (j = 0.299, 95% CI = 0, 0.761, P = .21). CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL IMPORTANCE: MRI is sensitive and specific for identifying brain lesions and classifying disease as inflammatory or neoplastic in dogs. Cerebrovascular disease in general and specific inflammatory, neoplastic, and cerebrovascular brain diseases were frequently misclassified.