When is a Veterinary Ultrasound Used?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Ultrasound can be used to confirm a vet's diagnosis.
Ultrasound can be used to confirm a vet's diagnosis.

Veterinary ultrasound in used in many of the same circumstances that call for the use of ultrasound on humans. It can be a useful diagnostic tool, and it can also be used to monitor ongoing conditions. In some circumstances, it may be necessary to use veterinary ultrasound because animals cannot communicate with humans about their symptoms, and as a result, an ultrasound may be used in lieu of an extensive patient interview.

Veterinarians sometimes use ultrasounds to look for injuries that aren't obvious.
Veterinarians sometimes use ultrasounds to look for injuries that aren't obvious.

One of the most common reasons for a veterinarian to use ultrasound is as an aid to diagnosis. For example, if a male cat is brought in by an owner who claims that the cat is having difficulty urinating, the veterinarian might use ultrasound to check for an obstruction in the bladder or urethra. Ultrasound can also be used to examine suspicious masses and other findings which occur during a manual exam. It can also be used in emergency settings to look for serious medical problems such as internal organs damaged in a collision.

A veterinary technician may help calm an animal during a veterinary ultrasound.
A veterinary technician may help calm an animal during a veterinary ultrasound.

A clinic may also use veterinary ultrasound to monitor an ongoing condition. A pregnant dog, for example, may be given several ultrasound examinations to confirm the pregnancy and assess the health of the developing puppies. Ultrasound can also be used to monitor the progress of liver and kidney disease, along with any treatment approaches, just as it is in humans.

A clinic may use veterinary ultrasound to monitor a pet's ongoing condition.
A clinic may use veterinary ultrasound to monitor a pet's ongoing condition.

Large animal veterinary ultrasound can be utilized for things like checking on the heart health of a race horse, determining that a cow is ready for breeding, or checking for the source of an intestinal obstruction in a goat. Veterinary ultrasound can also be used to guide procedures such as biopsies, with the veterinarian ultrasounding the area of interest to confirm that the sample is taken from the correct location.

A pregnant cat or dog may be given several ultrasound examinations to confirm the pregnancy and assess the health of the developing offspring.
A pregnant cat or dog may be given several ultrasound examinations to confirm the pregnancy and assess the health of the developing offspring.

In the case of large animals, the veterinarian may bring the ultrasound machine to the animal, to reduce stress for the animal prior to the examination. Small animals must generally be brought into a veterinary clinic for an ultrasound examination. In both cases, the procedure is painless, and the animal generally does not need to be sedated, although a veterinary technician or assistant is usually present to hold and calm the animal so that the vet can get a good image. Veterinary ultrasound can take between 30 minutes and an hour and a half, depending on the reason for the examination and the type of animal.

Not all veterinarians offer ultrasound. Some vets may need to refer clients to another veterinarian or to a veterinary ultrasound specialist. Owners may opt to be present during the exam in some cases, and the veterinarian can provide information about the anatomical structures seen during the ultrasound examination. Depending on the findings of the imaging study, a veterinarian can recommend the best course of action, which can vary from requesting additional testing to recommending a change of medication to continuing the animal's care as before.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Ultrasound can be used to confirm a vet's diagnosis.
      By: Eléonore H
      Ultrasound can be used to confirm a vet's diagnosis.
    • Veterinarians sometimes use ultrasounds to look for injuries that aren't obvious.
      By: hues
      Veterinarians sometimes use ultrasounds to look for injuries that aren't obvious.
    • A veterinary technician may help calm an animal during a veterinary ultrasound.
      By: ArenaCreative
      A veterinary technician may help calm an animal during a veterinary ultrasound.
    • A clinic may use veterinary ultrasound to monitor a pet's ongoing condition.
      By: V&P Photo Studio
      A clinic may use veterinary ultrasound to monitor a pet's ongoing condition.
    • A pregnant cat or dog may be given several ultrasound examinations to confirm the pregnancy and assess the health of the developing offspring.
      By: Ilike
      A pregnant cat or dog may be given several ultrasound examinations to confirm the pregnancy and assess the health of the developing offspring.