Why Would My Pet Need an Ultrasound?

corgi at the vet

You’ve probably heard of an ultrasound before. You may have even had one, but you may not know that ultrasounds aren’t only a medical diagnostic tool for humans. They are also used on animals for the same purpose.

Ultrasounds are a non-invasive way for your vet to see what’s happening inside your pet’s body. And this is especially important since our animals aren’t able to communicate their symptoms to us very easily. Here’s what you need to know about pet ultrasounds and why your animal might need one.

Ultrasounds: What are They, and How do They Work?

Whether being performed on a human or animal patient, ultrasounds work in the same way. They use soundwave technology to produce images. Firstly, the area to be scanned will be exposed, and a special conducting gel is placed onto it. Pets are usually shaved first, as their fur can make it hard for the ultrasound to pick up a clear picture. Next, the handheld device is placed against the area and moved around to create the image your vet will see on the screen.

The handheld device delivers sound waves into your pet’s body. Some of these will pass through internal structures, some will be absorbed, and others will bounce back as an echo. These echoes create the images that your vet will be able to see. Since these images are produced in real-time, your vet can move the probe as needed to fully assess the area in question.

Reasons Why Your Pet Might Need an Ultrasound

Ultrasounds are primarily a diagnostic tool. While most health issues will cause symptoms, these don’t always present themselves right away. It's extremely hard for pets to communicate anything that they might be experiencing that we can’t see with our own two eyes, such as abdominal pain. Ultrasounds are only diagnostic tools though, and it may also be necessary for your pet to have additional assessments, such as x-rays or blood tests.

Ultrasounds are especially effective at enabling vets to see internal organs that contain fluid, such as your pet's bladder and liver. They can be used to assess their shape, size, and position, as well as how they are functioning. Some of the conditions that can be detected using ultrasound scans include:

  • Gallbladder infections

  • Inflammation of the prostate

  • Liver damage and function issues

  • Kidney damage and unction issues

  • Lymphoma

  • Pancreatitis

  • Uterine infections

  • Tumors, including cancers

Ultrasounds are also routinely used in pet pregnancies, in just the same way that they are with human ones. An ultrasound can detect the presence of a pregnancy and how many fetuses are present. Regular appointments will enable your vet to monitor your pet’s pregnancy and estimate when the babies are likely to be born.

Finally, ultrasounds may also be used to assist in the taking of a biopsy. This is known as ultrasound-assisted aspiration. If your pet requires an internal biopsy, an ultrasound may be used to help guide the equipment, ensuring that cell samples are taken from the correct area and that there is no damage to surrounding organs or tissues. Ultrasound-assisted aspirations are the preferred option of many vets since they are less invasive and do not leave any scarring.

If you have any questions about pet ultrasounds, please contact our friendly and knowledgeable veterinary team at Richfield Animal Medical Center in Richfield, Ohio at 330-659-6606.