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

If your veterinarian recommends an ultrasound for your pet, it's natural to feel concerned. In this post, our New York vets are here to provide information and help you understand what to expect during a pet ultrasound.

Our furry companions are susceptible to various illnesses and conditions, such as tumors, cysts, or ingesting foreign objects that may cause internal blockages.

Ultrasounds are a diagnostic imaging technique that uses sound waves to create real-time images of your dog or cat's body.

Veterinary ultrasounds are quick, non-invasive, and can be used to diagnose and assess a range of internal organ issues in your pet. Additionally, ultrasounds help monitor your pet's pregnancy.

Reasons Your Pet May Need An Ultrasound

Our veterinary diagnostic laboratory at Rivergate Veterinary Clinic provides state-of-the-art ultrasound services to help our vets examine the structure of your pet's organs.

This allows us to detect any blockages, tumors, or other medical problems your pet may have. Our team of experienced veterinarians uses ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to diagnose your pet's issues accurately.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform these two types of ultrasounds:

Emergency Ultrasound

If your pet undergoes an emergency, an ultrasound procedure will concentrate on the abdomen and chest areas to promptly identify whether your cat or dog is suffering from severe internal bleeding or pneumothorax, a condition in which gas or air gathers in the space surrounding the lungs. This quick diagnosis helps us to determine the problem quickly and plan an effective treatment for your pet.


Cardiac ultrasounds, also known as echocardiograms, are detailed scans that enable close examination of the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac.

They are used to determine whether the heart is functioning properly or if there are any abnormalities. While echocardiograms are typically painless, they involve various measurements and calculations. 

If your pet has recently been diagnosed with a heart murmur or is showing signs of heart disease, they may be referred to a specialist for an echocardiogram.

In cases where an organ shows abnormalities, an ultrasound-guided biopsy can be performed to obtain a tissue sample for further examination under a microscope. This biopsy aids in making a diagnosis in many instances.

Conditions Which May Mean Your Pet Could Benefit From an Ultrasound

Heart Problems

If your dog or cat has been diagnosed with a heart condition, your vet may refer you to a 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 finds any irregularities or abnormalities in your pet's urine or blood tests, they may suggest an ultrasound to get a clearer picture of their internal organs, such as lymph nodes, kidneys, bladder, and more. This can help identify the cause of the issue.

Diagnostic Imaging of Soft Tissue Injuries & Illness

Thanks to ultrasound imaging technology, almost all kinds of soft tissue can be examined in detail. 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 Their Ultrasound

Various types of ultrasounds may be performed on your pet's body, and each may require specific preparations. It is essential to consult with your veterinarian for specific guidelines to help prepare your pet for the ultrasound examination.

For certain ultrasounds, such as abdominal ultrasounds, your pet may need to fast for 8 to 12 hours before the procedure. This is to ensure a better examination of the abdominal area. In the case of bladder ultrasounds, your cat or dog shouldn't urinate for 3 to 6 hours before the procedure so that the bladder can be adequately assessed.

The area being examined will typically be shaved to ensure clear images can be obtained. Although most pets remain calm and cooperative during the ultrasound, some may need sedation to help them relax.

In case biopsies are needed after the ultrasound, your pet might require a stronger sedative or anesthesia to help them relax and prevent complications. Your veterinarian will inform you if this is necessary.

Instant Ultrasound Results For a Fast Diagnosis

Your veterinarian can perform an ultrasound procedure in real time. This means that the results of the examination can be obtained immediately. However, in some cases, the images taken through the ultrasound will need to be sent to a veterinary radiologist for further examination. In such instances, you may need to wait a few days before the final result is concluded.

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.

Is your pet scheduled for an ultrasound at Rivergate Veterinary Clinic? Contact our New York vets today if you have questions about your pet's procedure.

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Rivergate Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of New York companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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