Optimizing contrast enhancement is essential for producing specific signals in biomedical imaging and therapy. The potential of using Aucore-Agshell nanorods (Au@Ag NRs) as a dual-functional theranostic contrast agent is demonstrated for effective cancer imaging and treatments. Due to its strong NIR absorption and high efficiency of photothermal conversion, effects of both photoacoustic tomography (PAT) and photothermal therapy (PTT) are enhanced significantly. The PAT signal grows by 45.3% and 82% in the phantom and in vivo experiments, respectively, when compared to those using Au NRs. In PTT, The maximum increase of tissue temperature treated with Au@Ag NRs is 22.8 °C, twice that with Au NRs. Results of the current study show the feasibility of using Au@Ag NRs for synergetic PAT with PTT. And it will enhance the potential application on real-time PAT guided PTT, which will greatly benefit the customized PTT treatment of cancer.