An x-ray image-guided small animal stereotactic irradiator was developed and characterized to enable tumor visualization and accurate target localization for small field, high dose irradiation. The system utilizes a custom collimation system, a motorized positioning system (x, y, θ), a digital imaging panel and operating software, and is integrated with a commercial x-ray unit. The essential characteristics of the irradiator include small radiation fields (1-10 mm), high dose rate (>10 Gy min(-1)) and submillimeter target localization. The software enables computer-controlled image acquisition, stage motion and target localization providing simple and precise automated target localization. The imaging panel was characterized in terms of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) and spatial resolution. Overall localization accuracy and precision were assessed. SNR, CNR and spatial resolution are 24 dB, 21 dB and 2.8 lp mm(-1), respectively, and localization accuracy is approximately 65 µm with 6 µm precision. With the aid of image guidance, system performance was subsequently used to evaluate radiation response in a rat orthotopic lung tumor effectively sparing normal tissues and in a mouse normal lung. The capabilities of 3D treatment and cone-beam computed tomography are presented for 3D localization and delivery as a work in progress.