You've just found out that your dog or cat needs an ultrasound. So, what exactly is an ultrasound and how can it help your pet? Our Boulder vets explain how ultrasound scans are performed on pets in our in-house veterinary diagnostic lab.
Our pets often get into things they shouldn’t or develop health issues such as cysts or tumors that require treatment. Ultrasounds are a form of imaging technology that transmits sound waves into your pet’s body to produce a 'picture' of a specific part of the body.
Veterinary ultrasounds are non-invasive and can be used to diagnose or evaluate problems with your pet's internal organs or check on your pet's pregnancy.
Reasons Your Pet May Need An Ultrasound
An ultrasound can help our Huntersville Internal Medicine vets examine the structure of your pet’s organs so we can discover and identify blockages, tumors, or other problems.
At Rocky Mountain Veterinary Cardiology, ultrasounds are done in our in-house veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Our team of veterinary specialists uses ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to provide an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s medical issues, so we can provide your pet with the most effective treatment possible.
Through the use of ultrasound, we can distinguish soft tissue masses from foreign bodies or fluid - a task we might find challenging or impossible to accomplish with a digital x-ray. The sound waves the ultrasound generates are not harmful or painful to your cat or dog.
Conditions That May Require An Ultrasound
If your cat or dog is diagnosed with a heart condition, your primary care vet may refer you to our specialists for a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram to evaluate the overall condition of your animal's heart and to look for abnormalities.
Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results
If your vet discovers abnormalities in your pet’s blood or urine tests, they may recommend an abdominal ultrasound to get a clear picture of the health of your pet's internal organs such as the lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys, liver, urinary bladder, or other areas to learn why the abnormalities are occurring.
Examination of Soft Tissues
Almost all soft tissues can be examined thanks to ultrasound technology. A few of the most common areas that ultrasounds are used include:
- Fetal viability and development
- Thyroid glands
If abnormal tissue is spotted during an ultrasound, the vet may also use the ultrasound to help collect tissue samples from the affected area.
Ultrasound-Assisted Tissue Collection
Samples are typically collected using these methods:
- Tru-Cut biopsies
- Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration
If your vet will be performing an ultrasound-assisted tissue collection, your pet will likely be sedated. We can perform biopsies in a less invasive manner with ultrasounds than with surgeries.
Types of Ultrasounds
Your vet may perform these two types of ultrasounds:
If your pet is experiencing an emergency, the ultrasound will usually focus on the abdomen and chest to quickly learn whether your dog or cat has a serious internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or pneumothorax (a condition in which gas or air collects in the space surrounding the lungs).
This can assist us in diagnosing the issue quickly. We can then plan effective treatment.
Also referred to as cardiac ultrasounds, with these detailed ultrasounds we can closely assess the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac. This will tell us whether the heart is functioning properly and whether there is a malfunction in the heart.
Though they are usually painless, echocardiograms require several measurements and calculations. If your pet was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur or is displaying signs of heart disease, they may be referred to our specialists for an echocardiogram.
Once we identify an abnormal part of an organ, an ultrasound-guided biopsy can be performed to collect a sample of the affected tissue. This biopsy allows us to take a tissue sample, which can be inspected with a microscope to reveal more information. In many cases, this will result in a diagnosis.
How To Prepare Your Pet for an Ultrasound
Ultrasounds in different areas require different preparations. Speak to your vet to find out how to prepare your pet for its ultrasound.
You may be required to withhold food and water for between 8 and 12 hours, particularly for abdominal ultrasounds. We can best examine the urinary bladder when it is full of urine. This is why your cat or dog should not urinate for about 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound, if possible.
The area to be examined will likely be shaved so clear images can be produced. While most pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated.
If biopsies need to be done, your pet will need a heavy sedative or short-acting anesthetic to help them relax during the procedure and prevent potential complications that could impede success. Your veterinarian will let you know if this is necessary.
Getting Your Pet's Ultrasound Results
Because our veterinarians can perform an ultrasound in real-time, we can see results almost immediately. In some cases, ultrasound images will be sent to a veterinary radiologist after they’re captured for further consultation. In these cases, you may need to wait a few days for the final result.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.