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Pet Ultrasound FAQ: Your Top 5 Questions Answered


If our veterinarians recommend an ultrasound for your pet, it’s natural to wonder exactly why your pet needs this diagnostic test and what to expect. In human medicine, most of us think about ultrasounds in conjunction with pregnancy. However, there are many additional applications for both humans and animals. An ultrasound is a common, routine diagnostic test that may be recommend for many different reasons. Ultrasounds are a safe, effective diagnostic exam for looking into your pet’s body. Below, our veterinarians answer five of the most frequently asked questions about veterinary ultrasounds.

#1: Why does my pet need an ultrasound?

Ultrasound exams allow our veterinarians to examine the size, shape, location and general appearance of your pet’s internal organs. An ultrasound test may be performed for many different reasons. These include unexplained weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea, chronic infections, abnormal blood work, a change in urinary habits, and suspected fluid in the chest or abdomen. In older pets, an ultrasound may also be done to establish a baseline for future testing or to recheck the status of a previous problem. If your pet is schedule for surgery or a biopsy, an ultrasound is typically done prior to these procedures. Finally, an ultrasound might be done for the same reason we commonly associated this exam with in humans – your pet could be pregnant!

#2: What if my veterinarian finds a “mass” during an ultrasound exam?

While it can be upsetting and unsettling to hear that a mass was found during an ultrasound exam, this is not automatically bad news. In fact, it is not uncommon to find masses within the organs. Oftentimes these masses are completely normal and benign. If we suspect that the mass is malignant (cancerous), we will do additional testing, such as a biopsy, to determine if this is indeed the case.

#3: What happens during an ultrasound exam?

During the exam, an ultrasound machine will send sound waves through your pet’s body. The “echoes” from these waves are used to form an image of your pet’s interior organs, such as the liver, kidney and intestines. In order to obtain the best possible image, we need to establish good contact between the ultrasound probe and your pet’s skin. Sound waves typically do not travel well through hair or fur. As a result, we may need to partially shave your pet’s fur and hair; this should fully regrow within three to four weeks.

#4: Is an ultrasound exam painful?

No, an ultrasound exam is a virtually painless procedure. A warmed, water-based gel will be applied to the area we are examining and the ultrasound probe will be gently moved along your pet’s skin. Light pressure is applied, but your pet will in no way experience discomfort. In fact, many pets fall asleep during the exam!

#5: What happens after the exam?

Our veterinarians will print out ultrasound images captured during the exam and discuss the findings with you, as well as recommendations for next steps.

If you have more questions about ultrasound, call Animal Emergency Centre, located in Studio City, California in the Los Angeles County, at (818) 760-3882.