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Ultrasound for Dogs and Cats: What Pet Owners Want to Know

Is your pet experiencing a medical condition that requires diagnostic imaging? If so then you may have a few questions about what to expect. Here, our Nashua vets talk about how ultrasound is performed on dogs and cats, and what it can help us see and do when it comes to diagnosing and treating your furry friend.

What are ultrasounds for pets?

Experienced pet owners are aware that despite their best efforts, their ambitious four-legged companions may get into things they shouldn't, or be afflicted with conditions or tumors that require treatment.

Ultrasounds transmit sound waves into an animal's body, producing an image of specific internal structures.

The technology used in ultrasounds is safe and non-invasive. Your veterinarian can also leverage it to diagnose pericardial effusion and hemoabdomen (blood surrounding the heart and in the abdomen). 

Why might my pet need an ultrasound?

Your vet can use an ultrasound to see the architecture of your pet's organs to find and identify objects. With ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools, our veterinarians at Animal Medical Center of New England can accurately diagnose your pet's medical issues so effective treatment can be administered. 

This tool gives us the ability to differentiate soft tissue masses, foreign bodies, and fluid from one another–a task that may be difficult to achieve with a digital X-ray. The ultrasound generates sound waves that will not be painful or harmful to your dog or cat. 

Examination of Soft Tissues

An ultrasound can be used to examine almost all of the body’s soft tissues to evaluate:

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

If abnormal tissue is discovered during the ultrasound, a vet may be able to collect tissue samples.

How will your vet collect a sample for a biopsy?

These methods are typically used to collect samples:

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

Your dog may need to be sedated with these methods. Biopsies can be performed with ultrasound imaging, in a less invasive manner than surgery would entail.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

If abnormalities are discovered in your dog’s blood or urine tests, an abdominal ultrasound may be recommended.

This can help our veterinary team see internal organs such as lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys, urinary bladder, liver, or other areas to find out what’s causing the specific abnormalities.

Types of Ultrasounds For Dogs & Cats

Your vet may perform one of these types of ultrasounds:


With, echocardiograms we can closely examine the heart and the structures surrounding it, including the pericardial sac, to find out whether the heart is functioning properly. If your pet's heart is not working correctly, this can also help reveal the issue.

Usually painless, these detailed ultrasounds require numerous calculations and measurements. Your vet may recommend one if your pet is exhibiting symptoms of heart disease or was diagnosed with a heart murmur recently.

Standard Ultrasound

Your pet may be scheduled for a standard ultrasound for non-life-threatening situations where your vet would like to get a look at what is happening internally. One example of this would be if your vet would like to confirm pregnancy in your dog or cat and monitor the growth of the babies.

Emergency Ultrasounds

By nature, emergencies occur suddenly and ultrasounds are usually focused on the abdomen and chest to quickly check for pneumothorax (a condition in which air or gas collects in the area around the lungs) or serious internal hemorrhaging (bleeding).

We can use emergency ultrasounds to help quickly identify and diagnose the issue, and then develop an effective treatment plan.

How should you prepare your pet for an ultrasound?

Ask your vet how you should prepare for the ultrasound. Leading up to your pet’s ultrasound appointment, you may need to withhold water and food for 8 to 12 hours, specifically for abdominal ultrasounds.

The area to be examined by your vet will be shaved, so clear images can be captured. While most pets won’t have trouble holding still during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated.

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

Will the vet share the results of the ultrasound with you?

Because our vets 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 more consultation. In these cases, you may need to wait a few days for the final result.

Once the results have been confirmed, your vet will take the time to discuss the findings and make any recommendations for the next steps.

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.

Do you have questions about your pet's upcoming ultrasound appointment at Animal Medical Center of New England? Contact our Nashua veterinary team today. 

Welcoming Referrals and Emergency Walk-Ins

Animal Medical Center of New England welcomes emergency walk-ins and appointments when your pet needs us most. Our team of specialists is also accepting referrals from primary care veterinarians - fill out a referral form to get started.


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