Canine Ultrasound Testing

Canine ultrasound is a diagnostic test that's used to confirm diagnosis of various illnesses such as tumors, pancreatitis and internal abnormalities. Ultrasounds are non-invasive in nature and pets may not require sedation during the procedure. Ultrasounds are particularly helpful to diagnose internal growths that cannot be determined through physical exams, blood or urine tests. Growths detected through ultrasound tests are subject to surgical extraction to check for malignancy.

How Are Ultrasounds Performed?

Ultrasounds are generally performed by trained veterinary specialists with the use of specific equipment. The vet will clean the area that will be used to perform the ultrasound. The pets hair will be shaved a conductive gel is applied to a probe. This probe is rubbed over the cleaned surface of the pet's body to generate images of the internal organs which become visible on a monitor. Ultrasounds don't involve radiation and are hence safe for use during pregnancy. Abnormalities are detected through the images that appear on the screen due to the sound waves that reflect from the internal organs. This procedure is painless and pets have to be held in place to allow the vet to perform the ultrasound. However, pets highly resistant to the procedure are mildly sedated.

Types of Ultrasounds

The most commonly performed canine ultrasounds include abdominal ultrasounds and cardiac ultrasounds. Abdominal ultrasounds are used to diagnose gastrointestinal tract tumors, organ enlargement and pregnancy. During the ultrasound the vet will detect any changes present in the spleen, intestines, kidneys and surrounding organs. Since tumors may be hidden due to shadows visible in X-rays, an ultrasound is a preferred diagnostic test. However, if the diagnosis isn't confirmed through abdominal ultrasounds the vet will conduct other tests to distinguish health concerns present. Apart from abdominal ultrasounds pets may have to undergo a cardiac ultrasound, also known as echocardiogram. This procedure helps the vet diagnose heart abnormalities that could lead to congestive heart failure or cardiac arrest.

Echocardiograms in Dogs

An echocardiogram is performed in the same manner as abdominal ultrasounds. The only difference is that the ultrasound is performed over the chest surface, between the ribs. Echocardiograms should be performed and read by licensed and trained specialists. The procedure takes a little over half an hour. Although echocardiograms are performed at the chest area, they aren't used to detect lung abnormalities. They're used to obtain images of the heart to measure dimensions and check blood flow. Pets genetically predisposed to heart diseases and dogs that exhibit symptoms of heart murmur require an echocardiogram test to rule out heart conditions. Apart from ultrasounds, the vet will perform other diagnostic tests to confirm illnesses.

Other Diagnostic Tests Include:

  • Fine needle aspirate tests
  • Biopsy
  • X-Rays
  • Explorative Surgery
  • Blood Tests

Preparation for Ultrasounds

It's important to talk to the vet to determine if the dog requires fasting, few hours before the ultrasound is conducted. Pets may also have to be brought to the hospital in advance to be shaved and administered anesthesia, if applicable.

Ultrasound equipment may not be available at every vet center. It's also necessary to determine the cost of the procedure along with anesthesia if required.