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Ultrasound for Dogs & Cats: What Pet Owners Want to Know

You just learned that your dog requires an ultrasound. Now, let's break down this procedure and understand how it benefits your pet. Our veterinary diagnostic lab in Mooresville conducts ultrasound scans for dogs and cats. Our vets will guide you through the process.

Veterinary Ultrasounds

Pets often encounter health issues like cysts or tumors, requiring prompt treatment. Additionally, they may engage in activities that pose risks. In such situations, your veterinarian might recommend an ultrasound to assess the problem and determine the necessary diagnosis and treatment.

Ultrasounds, an imaging technology, send sound waves into your pet's body, creating a detailed 'picture' of a specific body part.

These non-invasive veterinary ultrasounds are crucial in diagnosing and evaluating problems within an animal's internal organs or monitoring pregnancies.

Reasons Your Pet May Need an Ultrasound 

Our vets at Mooresville use ultrasounds to examine your pet's internal organs, revealing obstructions, tumors, or other potential issues during the assessment. An ultrasound can help our vets in Mooresville examine the structure of your pet's internal organs. We may discover and identify obstructions, tumors, or other issues during this assessment. 

At Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital, our in-house veterinary diagnostic laboratory completes ultrasounds for cats and dogs. Our veterinarians use ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to accurately diagnose your pet's medical issues so your pet will receive the most effective treatment possible. 

Ultrasound enables us to differentiate foreign bodies or fluid from soft tissue masses more effectively than digital X-rays, which may struggle with this task. The procedure involves generating harmless and painless sound waves for your cat or dog. Using ultrasound, we can distinguish foreign bodies or fluid from soft tissue masses - a job that may be challenging or impossible to accomplish with a digital X-ray. The ultrasound will generate sound waves which are not harmful or painful to your cat or dog. 

Conditions That May Require an Ultrasound 

Here are some conditions that commonly require veterinary ultrasounds. 

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results 

Has your vet discovered abnormalities in your pet's blood or urine tests? An abdominal ultrasound may be recommended so your vet can get a clear picture of the health of your pet's internal organs, such as the kidneys, lymph nodes, spleen, liver, urinary bladder, or other areas, and to learn why the abnormalities are occurring. 

Heart Conditions 

If your cat or dog has been diagnosed with a heart condition, a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram may be needed so we can evaluate the general condition of your pet's heart and check for abnormalities. 

Examination of Soft Tissues 

Almost all soft tissues can be examined using ultrasound technology. Some of the most common areas that ultrasounds are used to check include:

  • Fetal vitality and development
  • Eyes
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Thyroid glands 

If abnormal tissue is detected during an ultrasound, your veterinarian may also use this imaging technology to help collect tissue samples from the area that's been affected. 

Ultrasound-Assisted Tissue Collection

Samples are typically collected using these methods:

  • Tru-Cut biopsies
  • Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration

If your vet performs 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 or refer you to a veterinary specialist to have them completed:

Emergency Ultrasound

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 severe internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or pneumothorax (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.

Echocardiogram

Also known as cardiac ultrasounds, these detailed scans enable us to evaluate the heart and its surrounding structures closely, including the pericardial sac. This assessment provides information on the proper functioning of the heart and identifies any malfunctions.

While typically painless, echocardiograms involve multiple measurements and calculations. If your pet has recently been diagnosed with a heart murmur or is exhibiting signs of heart disease, our specialists may recommend an echocardiogram.

Upon identifying an abnormality in an organ, we can conduct an ultrasound-guided biopsy to collect a sample of the affected tissue. This biopsy lets us obtain a tissue sample for microscopic inspection, revealing additional information.

In many cases, this procedure leads to a definitive diagnosis.

How To Prepare Your Pet for an Ultrasound

Different areas of the body require specific preparations for ultrasounds. Consult your vet to learn how to prepare your pet for an ultrasound.

For abdominal ultrasounds, you may need to withhold food and water for 8 to 12 hours. Optimal examination of the urinary bladder occurs when it's complete, so your cat or dog should refrain from urinating for about 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound, if possible.

Expect the shaved area for more precise image production. While most pets remain cooperative during the ultrasound, some may require sedation.

In cases where biopsies are necessary, your pet will need a heavy sedative or short-acting anesthetic to ensure relaxation during the procedure and prevent potential complications. Your veterinarian will inform you if this step is required.

Getting Your Pet's Ultrasound Results

Because our veterinarians can perform ultrasounds for pets 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. You may need to wait a few days for the final result in these cases.

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.

Your veterinarian at Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital can tell you whether your pet will need an ultrasound. Please get in touch with our Mooresville veterinarians to book an appointment for an exam.

New Patients Welcome

Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinarians are passionate about improving the health of cats, dogs and exotic pets. Book your pet's first appointment today.

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(704) 664-4087