Why is ultrasonography used on a pet?

Ultrasound examination of cats, dogs, horses and other companion and farm animals has grown in popularity over the past several years because of the sharp and clear images produced when sound waves are introduced to an animal's body cavity (such as the chest or abdomen). The resulting "echoes" back from inside the body are translated into computerized pictures of the soft tissues such as:

  • the heartIMG_9452
  • lungs
  • liver
  • spleen 
  • urinary bladder
  • pregnant uterus

Not only are the pictures produced by ultrasound equipment accurate and detailed, but they allow the doctor to evaluate structures live, in real time, or the pictures may be saved to be viewed at a later date. The pictures tell an accurate story of the shape, size, location and blood supply associated with body organs.

A veterinarian will suggest use of ultrasound imaging when a cat, dog or other pet has a problem in his blood work, may have internal bleeding or repeated infections, has aspirated or swallowed a foreign object or whenever the doctor wishes to see inside the animal without using x-rays. In fact, the pictures produced by ultrasound examination can be far superior to the traditional x-ray. 

What will my pet experience during ultrasound examination?

Because this procedure is non-invasive and completely painless, most animals tolerate it very well and often do IMG_9451not require anaesthesia for it. No fasting from food or water is necessary. Some pets may need light sedation, however, as they must remain still for the examination which can last 20 to 30 minutes.  An assistant will hold and comfort the pet during the examination.

Before the ultrasound procedure, the area of the body to be examined is shaved so that the pet's fur or hair does not interfere with the imaging.  A small amount of water-based lubricating gel is placed on the skin over the area to be imaged. The doctor or ultrasound technician puts a transducer on the body. This device sends sound waves into the body cavity, and a computer builds a picture based on how those sound waves reflect back from the organs or other structures being visualized. Pets do well with the exam, and there is no recovery protocol. The animals may resume their normal routine. 

Veterinarians praise pet ultrasound for its safety, repeatability, ease of use and for how helpful it is before and during surgeries. It even  assists with locating an area which needs a biopsy and with cancer staging. Pet owners like ultrasound because their pets are comfortable and well cared for during the procedure, and they are given an accurate report of their animals' state of health.

As a full-service facility, Halifax Veterinary Hospital is pleased to use ultrasonography in the care of its patients.

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