Ultrasound is a very useful diagnostic tool to create images of structures inside the body, such as liver, kidneys and heart. The most widely recognized use for ultrasound is pregnancy in women. Birth defects, gender and fetal size/growth are commonly reported to expecting parents via their doctor. In veterinary medicine, we use ultrasound to look at a pet's internal organs to determine their size, shape, texture (commonly referred to as echogenicity), and to determine if abnormalities exist.
Ultrasound differs from x-rays and the information we can gather from each can be very helpful and complimentary to each other, therefore they are often recommended together. X-rays, technically referred to as radiographs, take a 2-dimensional picture of the 3-dimensional body part, showing us shape, size, location, and in some cases fluid accumulation. Ultrasound looks at slices of the 3-dimmensional organ. While we cannot see the entire organ at once, scanning side-to-side we can see not only the whole organ, but all the insides of the organ as well.
More technically, ultrasound uses sound waves to create a movie, called real-time images. As the probe is moved, the sound waves leave the probe and enter the body; some waves will bounce back to the probe, and others will pass through, creating an image on the screen. Ultrasound waves do not pass through air, therefore certain areas of the body; such as the stomach and lungs require the use of radiographs to image (see) them.
Common reasons ultrasound may be recommended for your pet:
- pregnancy diagnosis and fetal (baby) health
- evaluate the (urinary) bladder for bladder stones
- heart disease, such as heart failure, to determine the cause and severity of the condition
- after trauma to see if there is internal bleeding — to follow-up with abnormal blood tests, such as liver enzyme elevations — to look for evidence of cancer
Ultrasound is commonly used to assist in obtaining sterile urine samples for analysis as part of a regular health screen, or for diagnosis of your pet’s problem, to aid in removing abnormal fluid from the chest for abdomen, or to collect a sample from a tumor in the abdomen, thus avoiding more invasive surgery.
Many veterinary hospitals need to arrange a trained specialist to perform ultrasound on a patient, who may not be available for days, or they may refer a patient to a specialty hospital, thus increasing costs to families. Our veterinarians are highly skilled at ultrasound and can provide this service at Countryside, thus providing information necessary for diagnosis in a timely and less costly manner.