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Ultrasounds for Dogs & Cats

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

Our beloved pets can experience various illnesses and conditions such as tumors, cysts, or ingesting foreign objects that may cause internal blockages. Ultrasounds are a type of diagnostic imaging technique that uses sound waves to create real-time images of your dog or cat's body.

Using quick and non-invasive tests, veterinary ultrasounds can identify and evaluate a range of internal organ issues in your pet. Additionally, they can assist you in monitoring your pet's pregnancy.

Reasons Your Pet May Need An Ultrasound

An ultrasound can help our Tucson vets examine the structure of your pet’s organs so we can discover and identify blockages, tumors or other problems.

Ultrasounds are performed in our veterinary diagnostic laboratory at Pet Doctor. Our veterinarians use ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to accurately diagnose your pet's medical problems, allowing us to provide the most effective treatment possible.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform these two types of ultrasounds:

Emergency Ultrasound

If your pet is in pain, the ultrasound will usually focus on the abdomen and chest to determine whether your dog or cat has a serious internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or a pneumothorax (a condition in which gas or air collects in the space surrounding the lungs). This will assist us in quickly diagnosing the problem. Then we can develop an effective treatment strategy.


These detailed scans, also known as cardiac ultrasounds, allow us to examine the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac, in great detail. They help determine whether the heart is beating normally or if there are any irregularities. Although most echocardiograms are painless, a number of measurements and calculations are required.

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 a heart condition, your veterinarian may refer you to a specialist for a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram. These tests can help assess your pet's heart's health and function, as well as look for any anomalies.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

If the results of urine or blood tests reveal any anomalies or abnormalities, your veterinarian may recommend that your pet undergo an ultrasound. This will provide the doctor with a better understanding of your pet's internal organs, such as lymph nodes, kidneys, bladder, and other organs, and will allow them to try to determine what is causing the problem.

Diagnostic Imaging of Soft Tissue Injuries & Illness

Almost all kinds of soft tissue can be examined in detail thanks to ultrasound imaging technology. 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

Your pet will most likely be sedated if your veterinarian performs ultrasound-assisted tissue collection. Ultrasounds allow us to perform biopsies in a less invasive manner than surgeries.

How To Prepare Your Dog or Cat for Their Ultrasound

Different ultrasounds performed on your pet's body may require specific preparations. It's important to consult your vets for the specific guidelines to help prepare your pet for the ultrasound.

Certain ultrasounds, such as abdominal ultrasounds, may necessitate deprivation of food and water for your pet for 8 to 12 hours prior to the procedure. This enables a more thorough examination of the abdomen. It is best not to let your cat or dog urinate for 3 to 6 hours before the procedure so that the bladder can be properly assessed.

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

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

Instant Ultrasound Results For a Fast Diagnosis

Because your veterinarians can perform an ultrasound in real time, the results will be available immediately. In some cases, images obtained through ultrasound may need to be sent to a veterinary radiologist for examination after they have been obtained. In such cases, you may have to wait a few days before making a final decision.

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 Pet Doctor? Contact our Tucson vets today if you have any questions regarding your pet's procedure.

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Pet Doctor is accepting new patients! Our experienced veterinary team is passionate about the health of Tucson companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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