Ultrasound is a noninvasive test that is performed most commonly on the chest and abdominal cavities. With ultrasound, we use sound waves to image solid organs such as the heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, and bladder. It is often performed in conjunction with radiographs (x-rays). Ultrasound allows visualization of the architecture of these solid internal organs. Structures that contain air, such as the lungs and intestines, cannot be seen on ultrasound because air reflects sound waves instead of conducting them; therefore, radiographs and ultrasound are often used to complement each other.
Ultrasound of the abdomen allows for visualization of most of the abdominal organs including liver, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys, bladder, and prostate (in male dogs). It allows for a noninvasive diagnosis of many abdominal conditions including tumors, obstructions, and congenital disease.
Cardiac ultrasound allows for evaluation of heart size and function. The thickness of the heart walls, the size of the heart chambers, the appearance of the heart valves, and the strength of the heart contraction can be determined. Color Flow Doppler imaging allows for visualization of the blood as it travels through the heart. It can be used to identify many congenital heart defects as well as evaluating heart valve function. Cardiac ultrasound is also used to screen clinically normal pets that are at risk for heart disease. It is a very useful tool for not only determining if disease is present but also in evaluating its severity and the effectiveness of various treatments.
Because ultrasound is painless and noninvasive, it can be performed on most patients while they are awake. Occasionally, we will recommend sedation if we are concerned about patient discomfort.
We do recommend that you withhold food after 10 p.m. the night before your appointment. If your pet eats on the morning of the exam, the food in the stomach can block visualization of organs in the abdomen. It may also interfere with sedation if it is needed.
We do have to shave patients in the area where they are to be examined to allow for good contact with the ultrasound probe.
Please bring any radiographs (x-rays) that your family veterinarian has taken to your appointment, as they can be very helpful to us when we interpret your pet’s ultrasound. Please be aware that we may occasionally need to take additional radiographs at your appointment if it has been a long time since your previous x-rays, or if we need to look at other areas of your pet’s body.