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Ultrasounds for Dogs & Cats: Everything You Need to Know

Ultrasounds for Dogs & Cats: Everything You Need to Know

Has your vet recommended an ultrasound for your cat or dog? Our Concord vets share the details of this procedure and how it can help your pet. 

What is a veterinary ultrasound?

As a seasoned pet owner, you know that even with your utmost care, your furry friends may still get into mischief or develop ailments that need medical attention.

Ultrasounds use sound waves to create an image of your pet's internal structures and help diagnose conditions or tumors.

The technology used in ultrasounds is safe and non-invasive. Your veterinarian can also leverage it to diagnose pericardial effusion and hemoabdomen (blood surrounding the heart and in the abdomen). 

Why does my pet need an ultrasound?

If your dog or cat is experiencing health issues, our team at All Bay Animal Hospital can use advanced diagnostic tools such as ultrasound to assess their organs and identify any abnormalities.

Unlike traditional X-rays, ultrasound technology enables us to distinguish between soft tissue masses, foreign objects, and fluids with greater accuracy. Moreover, the procedure is entirely safe and painless for your furry friend.

Below are some examples of conditions that may require an ultrasound for proper diagnosis.

Heart Conditions

If your dog or cat is diagnosed with a heart condition, your vet might suggest an echocardiogram to determine whether your furry friend needs medication for their heart.

Examination of Soft Tissues

An ultrasound can be used to examine almost all of the body's soft tissues to evaluate:

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

If abnormal tissue is discovered during the ultrasound, a vet may be able to collect tissue samples.

How are samples collected?

These methods are typically used to collect samples:

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

Your dog may need to be sedated with these methods. Biopsies can be performed with ultrasound imaging in a less invasive manner than surgery would entail.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

Our veterinary team may suggest an abdominal ultrasound if your dog's blood or urine tests reveal any abnormalities. This procedure enables us to examine internal organs like the lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys, urinary bladder, liver, and other areas to identify the underlying cause of the abnormalities.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform one of these two types of ultrasounds:


Echocardiograms are a way to thoroughly observe the heart and its surrounding structures, such as the pericardial sac, in order to determine whether it is functioning properly. If your pet is experiencing a problem with their heart, this test can help to identify the issue.

Although these ultrasounds are usually painless, they require a lot of calculations and measurements. Your veterinarian might suggest an echocardiogram if your pet is displaying symptoms of heart disease or has recently been diagnosed with a heart murmur.

Emergency Ultrasounds

By nature, emergency situations occur suddenly, and ultrasounds are usually focused on the abdomen and chest to quickly check for pneumothorax (a condition in which air or gas collects in the area around the lungs) or serious internal hemorrhaging (bleeding).

We can use emergency ultrasounds to help quickly identify and diagnose the issue, then develop an effective treatment plan.

How should I prepare for a veterinary ultrasound?

Before your pet's ultrasound appointment, it is important to consult with your veterinarian about how to prepare. For abdominal ultrasounds, your pet may need to fast for 8 to 12 hours and avoid water.

Your veterinarian will need to shave the area to be examined to ensure clear images can be captured. Although most pets are able to stay still during the ultrasound, some may require sedation.

If biopsies are necessary, your cat or dog may require a heavy sedative or short-acting anesthetic to ensure relaxation during the procedure and prevent potential complications. Your veterinarian will inform you if this is needed.

When will I find out the results of the examination?

Our veterinary team can conduct real-time ultrasounds, allowing us to obtain almost instant results. However, in certain instances, we might need to send the ultrasound images to a veterinary radiologist for further analysis. In those cases, you may have to wait a few days before receiving the final outcome.

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.

Do you have questions about your pet's upcoming ultrasound? Contact our Concord veterinary team to schedule a consultation. Our vets are here to diagnose and treat your pet and address your concerns. 

New Patients Welcome

All Bay Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Concord companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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