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When Might My Pet Need an Ultrasound?

Did you know that ultrasounds are useful diagnostic tools for dogs and cats? They’re not just for humans, but pets, too.

Most parents know what an ultrasound is because they have had experience with it during pregnancy. However, most pet parents do not realize that they are useful in diagnosing and treating dogs and cats as well. Ultrasounds are a non-invasive diagnostic tool that vets use to examine the inside of a pet's body. It can examine a multitude of health challenges that can affect your pet's internal organs.


What Is an Ultrasound?


In both humans and animals, the ultrasound works the same way. The device, usually handheld, produces sound waves that go through your pet's body. These soundwaves are either absorbed or bounced back by your pet's body structures. When going through the body, they produce echoes that the device picks up and converts into images. These devices project the images in real-time on a computer screen.

Your veterinarian or a professional veterinary radiologist will move the handheld ultrasound probe over the affected areas of the pet's body. Because these procedures are painless and non-invasive, your pet can be awake the whole time. Your veterinarian might have to shave off a bit of fur so that the probe can make direct contact with the skin to ensure the best imaging results.  Nervous or aggressive pets may need to be sedated for the procedure.


When Would Your Pet Need an Ultrasound?

Several conditions would prompt your veterinarian to recommend an ultrasound for your pet. Here are a few of them:


Heart Conditions


If your veterinarian detects a heart abnormality upon examination, they will likely recommend an ultrasound. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound performed to examine the condition of the heart. It helps the veterinarian determine whether your pet will require heart medication.

Echocardiograms are either performed by board-certified veterinary cardiologists, radiologists, or experienced general practitioners.


Abnormal Urine or Blood Test Results

If blood or urine test results are abnormal, your veterinarian might decide to recommend an abdominal ultrasound. Abdominal ultrasounds are great for visualizing all the major organs in your pet's abdomen. They can give great visuals of the liver, spleen, kidneys, and lymph nodes, among others. Your veterinarian can determine if there are any causes for the abnormal results of the tests.


Soft Tissue Examination

An ultrasound can be effective in examining soft tissues of the body. Some examples include:

  • Eyes

  • Tendons

  • Viability of a fetus and its development

  • Thyroid glands

  • Ligaments


When your veterinarian or a radiologist detects any abnormal tissue using the ultrasound, they may recommend collecting a sample for testing.


Emergency Ultrasounds

Your veterinarian may employ an ultrasound if your pet comes in to the pet hospital because of an emergency. Depending on the emergency, your veterinarian may use the ultrasound to evaluate the extent of damage to the pet and look for fluid accumulation in body cavities. Ultrasounds are an excellent way to determine whether a pet has internal bleeding or a pneumothorax (air in the chest cavity).

For more on when a pet might need an ultrasound, call Emergency Pet Hospital of Redlands at (909) 793-5999.