What is ultrasound?
The most common reason for a human being to have an ultrasound is to confirm a pregnancy or check on a developing baby whilst still in the womb. However when it comes to veterinary medicine ultrasound is considered a safe and reliable method of looking inside your pet’s body for a variety of situations.
Is it safe for use on animals?
Yes, ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure and there are little to no risks. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you if there is any reason why your pet should not have an ultrasound examination.
Will my pet experience any pain?
As a non-invasive procedure your pet should not experience any pain. There may be a mild discomfort if the ultrasound technician needs to press firmly or manipulate the probe in order to gain a clearer image, but this should not last for more than a few seconds and should merely be uncomfortable and not painful.
What conditions can an ultrasound help to diagnose?
Your veterinarian may request an ultrasound for a variety of reasons including:
• Unexplained weight loss
• Prolonged vomiting or diarrhea
• Abnormal blood test results
• Urinary or bowel difficulties
• Fluid in the chest or abdomen
• Cancer staging or checking on tumors
• A baseline ultrasound to use for comparison at a later date
Prior to the ultrasound examination
Prior to the examination your pet will need to have their fur shaved from the area in which the ultrasound will take place. This creates the best contact between the skin of your pet and the ultrasound probe, allowing for more reliable imaging. It is also important that your pet has an empty stomach during the ultrasound to allow for accurate imaging to take place. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you how long your pet should fast for, and you should never start withholding food without advice from a qualified professional.
The ultrasound examination
Unfortunately due to the technical aspects of performing an ultrasound, most veterinarians do not allow owners to be present during the examination.
Your pet will lie on his side on a padded table for the examination, which usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. A veterinary technician is by his side for the whole examination, providing reassurance and some much enjoyed ear stroking and attention! A warm water-based gel is applied to the area to be examined and then the ultrasound probe is moved gently across his skin. If additional pressure or some maneuvering is needed to gain a clear image, the pressure of the probe will be increased, but at no point should your pet experience any more than a short, mild discomfort. Anesthesia is not required unless biopsies are to be taken during the ultrasound examination. However if your pet is particularly nervous or unable to stay still, a mild sedative may be given in order to carry out the examination quickly and reliably.
When will we receive the results from the ultrasound?
Your ultrasound technician will try and speak to you as soon as possible after the examination. It is not unusual for find unexplained masses during an examination and the majority of these are found to be harmless. However it is not possible to tell if a mass is benign or malignant from an ultrasound scan and so you may be referred for other testing to make an accurate diagnosis.
How much does a veterinary ultrasound cost?
The actual cost of treatment will vary depending on your veterinary surgery and the type of ultrasound required, but you could expect to pay between $100 and $600. Your veterinarian should be able to give you an accurate costing. If your pet has been referred for an ultrasound by your veterinarian, part or all of the cost of the treatment may be met by your pet insurance. Please contact your insurer for more information.