Ultrasonography for Pets
There may be a time when one of our veterinarians recommends an ultrasound exam to further assess your pet’s health. An ultrasound is a pain-free, non-invasive procedure that allows our veterinarians to visualize your pet’s heart, liver, kidneys and other abdominal organs in real time. It helps us see if your pet’s internal organs and other structures appear normal and to observe how they function. For example, ultrasound can also be used to look at your pet’s heart and can even be used to measure the walls of the heart and to look at individual heart valves.
What to Expect
Generally most pets will not require anesthesia to receive an ultrasound. However, if we will be taking any biopsies, a short-acting anesthetic will be needed. Anesthesia may also be needed depending upon the area to be examined or the activity level/anxiety of your pet. You will receive pre-ultrasound instructions from our team about withholding food and water ahead of your pet’s ultrasound exam in case anesthesia is required.
We may need to shave your pet’s hair, depending upon the area we will be examining. It is critical that the hand-held ultrasound probe makes complete contact with your pet’s skin. We promise to keep any haircut neat and as even as possible!
Most pets go home the same day of the ultrasound examination.
When Will I Receive The Results?
Since an ultrasound study is performed in real time, the visual results are known immediately. In some cases, the ultrasound images are sent to a veterinary radiologist for further consultation. If this happens, the final report may not be available for a few days. We will let you know what to expect once the ultrasound exam is complete.
How Does Ultrasound Work?
Ultrasound machines send sound waves into your pet’s body and bounce back at different strengths that are reflected back to a probe and interpreted by a computer. The computer can then create an image on a video monitor that can be analyzed. There are no known long-term health risks associated with exposure to ultrasound sound waves and there is no radiation involved in an ultrasound exam.
Our veterinary staff may shave a small part of your pet’s fur and apply an ultrasound gel to the skin. They will move the ultrasound wand around on the gel-covered portion of your pet’s body and observe internal images and see if they can find a cause for your pet’s illness. After a few minutes of moving the probe over the targeted body area, the test is finished.
When Is An Ultrasound Examination Used?
There are many uses for ultrasound exams, such as when laboratory tests are inconclusive or have suspicious changes. We may also recommend an ultrasound if your pet shows signs of fluid around an organ, to confirm a pregnancy diagnosis or identify heart conditions. Ultrasound is not ideal for diagnosing every illness or condition because it cannot “see through” air-filled lungs or bones. Pet ultrasound does, however, help veterinarians observe and diagnose:
- Pregnancy (the stage of pregnancy, health of developing puppies, kittens, etc.)
- Heart problems (helps evaluate cardiac function)
- Abdominal organs (changes or abnormality)
- Tumors and cysts (for instance in the stomach area, intestines, on the ovaries)
- Eye health
One of the important features of an ultrasound examination is the ability to find abnormal areas in the organs. This permits precise biopsy of those areas, particularly because the live, moving ultrasound image can serve as a guide for a veterinarian to obtain a sample of the area in question. This can be done, for example, by inserting a needle that can be seen on the ultrasound image and obtaining cells from the organ, or even a sterile urine sample from the bladder.
One of our veterinary staff may test a biopsy sample or examine the biopsied section of tissue under a microscope to gain more information. In many cases, your pet’s ultimate diagnosis is made by the pathologist.
If you have any questions about your pet’s ultrasound exam, please give us a call.