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A Pet Owners Guide To Pet Ultrasounds

A Pet Owners Guide To Pet Ultrasounds

Ultrasounds are an important part of veterinary medicine, but why does your pet need one? Our Flat Rock vets discuss how this test is used and what it can detect. 

Our pets can develop various illnesses such as tumors and cysts and can even swallow things they shouldn't and those can get stuck inside their body. A pet ultrasound is a type of diagnostic imaging technology that uses sound waves to get a picture of your dog or cat's interior structures in real time.

Veterinary ultrasounds are fast, non-invasive and can be used to diagnose or evaluate a number of issues with your pet's internal organs or to check on your pet's pregnancy.

The Reasons Why Your Pet May Need An Ultrasound

An ultrasound can help our Flat Rock vets examine the structure of your pet’s organs so we can discover and identify blockages, tumors or other problems.

At Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital & Veterinary Emergency Hospital, ultrasounds are done in our in-house veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Our team of veterinary specialists use 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.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform these two types of ultrasounds:

Emergency Ultrasound

If you think your pet might be experiencing a veterinary emergency, a vet will likely use ultrasound to take a look inside their abdomen and chest to get an idea of whether your dog or cat has serious internal injuries cush as internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or pneumothorax (a condition in which gas or air collects in the space surrounding the lungs). This can assist the vet in diagnosing the issue fast so they can develop an 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.

Conditions That Could Benefit From A Pet Ultrasound

Heart Problems

If your pet has a heart condition, your vet may need to refer them to a veterinary cardiology specialist for a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram to help evaluate the condition and function of your pet's heart and to search for any abnormalities.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

If your veterinarian discovers any anomalies or abnormalities in your pet's urine tests or blood samples, they may recommend that your companion get an ultrasound in order to gain a better picture of their internal organs like their lymph nodes, kidneys, bladder and more to try and identify what is causing the issue.

Diagnostic Imaging of Soft Tissue Injuries & Illness

Almost all kinds of soft tissue can be examined in detail thanks to ultrasound imaging technology. Some of the most common areas examined using ultrasound include:

  • Eyes
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • 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 & Biopsies

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.

How To Prepare Your Dog or Cat for An Ultrasound

Ultrasounds performed on different areas of your pet's body require different kinds of preparation. Ask your vets for the specific things you need to do to help prepare your pet for their ultrasound.

Your pet may need to be restricted from eating and drinking for 8 t o12 hours before their procedure is to be performed, this is especially true for abdominal ultrasounds. Your vet will be able to be able to best examine your pet's bladder when it is full so for ultrasounds of that organ, you should ideally not have your cat or dog urinate for 3 to 6 hours before the procedure.

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 a biopsy needs to be performed following your pet's ultrasound, they will need to be sedated in order to keep them relaxed and prevent complications. Your vet will be sure to let you know if the is necessary.

Instant Ultrasound Results For a Fast Diagnosis

Since your vets can perform an ultrasound in real-time, they will get the results immediately. In some instances, images taken through ultrasound will have to be sent to a veterinary radiologist after they have been taken for examination. In cases like that, you may need to wait a few days before the final result is decided upon.

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.

If your pet is not feeling well and could benefit from some diagnostics, contact our Flat Rock vets today to schedule a checkup and we can determine what your pet needs.

Contact (828) 697-7767