Dog Ultrasound and X-Ray Testing Compared

Dog ultrasound and x-rays are both important veterinary tools. They are completely different technologies, and each has advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the injury or condition, location of the site and the type of information required, a veterinarian will choose one or both to obtain the most accurate and useful results.

Ultrasound Advantages

Ultrasound is non-invasive and uses sound waves to capture images inside the body. Ultrasound images are "real time" so it's possible to show movement such as blood flow, heartbeat and fluid movement. It is often used during a dog pregnancy to determine the number and viability of puppies.

A dog injury that involves pain or swelling will often be assessed with ultrasound-this technique allows the doctor to view blood flow and fluids as they accumulate or move through the tissues.

If there is a tumor that needs to be biopsied anywhere on your dog, surgery is often guided by an ultrasound image. The surgeon will insert a needle into the tumor and, guided by the ultrasound image, remove a small amount of material for laboratory examination.

There are no known risks associated with ultrasound imaging.

Ultrasound Disadvantages

An experienced technician is needed to read the results because the image resolution is low and often not very clear. In addition, sound waves do not penetrate deeply into the body or through bone and they do not cover a very wide area. They cannot be used to determine brain injury or processes inside the bones.

Ultrasound waves are disrupted by gas and do not supply accurate images of organs behind the bowel.

X-Ray Advantages

X-Rays, also known as radiographs, use ionizing radiation to penetrate deeply into the body. They provide a clear image of bones and organs and provide a wide viewing area.

X-rays are a fast and easy way to examine bones and joints. They are commonly available at most veterinary hospitals and clinics.

X-Ray Disadvantages

X-rays use radiation to obtain their images and this does expose the patient to small doses of this potentially dangerous material. Technicians wear lead aprons to protect themselves from exposure. The latest x-ray machines, however, are very targeted to minimize radiation scatter.

Showing only one moment in time, x-rays cannot be used to show the flow of fluid, a heartbeat or other movement.

Imaging equipment can help veterinarians diagnose and treat your dog. The technologies continue to advance, allowing faster, safer and more accurate diagnosis and treatment.