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Ultrasounds for Dogs and Cats: Everything You Need to Know

Ultrasounds for Dogs and Cats: Everything You Need to Know

If you're concerned that your pet might need an ultrasound, let our Apple Valley vets put your mind at ease by answering many common questions and concerns regarding the procedure performed on pets in our in-house veterinary diagnostic lab. 

Veterinary Ultrasounds

Our pets are notorious for getting into things they shouldn't, and they develop health issues like tumors or cysts that need treatment. Ultrasounds are an imaging technology that uses soundwaves to produce detailed 'pictures' of your pet's internal systems. 

Veterinary ultrasounds are non-invasive and can be used to diagnose or evaluate problems with your pet's internal organs or check on your pet's pregnancy.

Reasons Your Pet May Need An Ultrasound

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

At Apple Valley Animal Hospital, ultrasounds are performed in our in-house veterinary diagnostic laboratory in Apple Valley. Our team of vets uses diagnostic tools such as ultrasound, veterinary radiology, and other forms of imaging to provide an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s medical issues, so we can provide your pet with the most effective treatment possible.

Through the use of ultrasound, we are able to distinguish soft tissue masses from foreign bodies or fluid - a task we might find challenging or impossible to accomplish with a digital X-ray. The sound waves the ultrasound generates are not harmful or painful to your cat or dog.

Conditions That May Require An Ultrasound

Heart Conditions

If your cat or dog has a heart condition, your vet may need to refer you to a veterinary cardiologist for a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram in order to evaluate the overall condition of your animal's heart and to look for abnormalities.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

Abnormalities in your pet's bloodwork or urinalysis may indicate that ultrasound is required. It will be needed to provide a clear picture of your pet's internal organs such as the lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys, liver, urinary bladder, or other areas to learn why the abnormalities are occurring.

Examination of Soft Tissues

Almost all soft tissues can be examined thanks to ultrasound technology. A few of the most common areas that ultrasounds are used on include:

  • Eyes
  • Tendons
  • Fetal viability and development
  • Ligaments
  • 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

Samples are typically collected using these methods:

  • Tru-Cut biopsies
  • Ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration

If your vet will be performing an ultrasound-assisted tissue collection, your pet will likely be sedated. We can perform biopsies in a less invasive manner with ultrasounds than with surgeries.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform these two types of ultrasounds:

Emergency Ultrasound

If your pet is experiencing an emergency, the ultrasound will usually focus on the abdomen and chest to quickly learn whether your dog or cat has a serious internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or pneumothorax (a condition in which gas or air collects in the space surrounding the lungs).

This can assist us in diagnosing the issue quickly. We can then plan effective treatment.


Also referred to as cardiac ultrasounds, with these detailed ultrasounds we can closely assess the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac. This will tell us whether the heart is functioning properly and whether there is a malfunction in the heart.

Though they are usually painless, echocardiograms require several measurements and calculations. If your pet was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur or is displaying signs of heart disease, they may be referred to our specialists for an echocardiogram.

Once we identify an abnormal part of an organ, an ultrasound-guided biopsy can be performed to collect a sample of the affected tissue. This biopsy allows us to take a tissue sample, which can be inspected with a microscope to reveal more information. In many cases, this will result in a diagnosis.

How To Prepare Your Pet for an Ultrasound

There are different preparations associated with different areas being looked at. Speak to your vet to find out how to prepare your pet for their ultrasound.

You may need to deny your pet food and water for anywhere between 8 and 12 hours, especially for an abdominal ultrasound. We can best examine the urinary bladder when it is full of urine. This is why your cat or dog should not urinate for about 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound, if possible.

The area to be examined will likely be shaved so clear images can be produced. While most pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated.

If biopsies need to be done, your pet will need a heavy sedative or short-acting anesthetic to help them relax during the procedure and prevent potential complications that could impede success. Your veterinarian will let you know if this is necessary.

Getting Your Pet's Ultrasound Results

Because our veterinarians can perform an ultrasound in real-time, we can see results almost immediately. In some cases, ultrasound images will be sent to a veterinary radiologist after they’re captured for further consultation. In these cases, you may need to wait a few days for the final result.

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.

If you think your dog or cat needs a veterinary ultrasound, contact our Apple Valley vets to book an appointment. Our team is highly skilled with access to advanced ultrasound technology to get to the bottom of your pet's condition.

Contact Us, Apple Valley Vets

Caring for Pets in Apple Valley

Apple Valley Animal Hospital accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

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