Diagnostic ultrasound for pets has been an incredible advance in veterinary medicine. The ability to use ultrasound to look inside the abdomen or chest of an animal means that we can often quickly and non-invasively investigate a host of different health conditions. But pet parents need to know some basic facts about ultrasound to protect their pets and ensure they truly benefit from this technology.
Ultrasound scans, also called sonograms, use high-frequency sound waves to form images of tissues within the body. This technology is similar to the sonar used by bats and ships at sea. The sound waves are reflected by the patient's tissues and these reflected sound waves are recorded and displayed as a visual image. This occurs in "real time", meaning that the images are immediately displayed on a screen, and events such as blood flow, heart beats, and gastrointestinal movement can be observed as they occur.
Abdominal ultrasound can be used to examine the liver, gall bladder, spleen, kidneys, bladder, prostate, uterus, ovaries, adrenal glands, stomach, and intestines. This means it can help us to pinpoint the cause of common pet health issues such as vomiting, elevated kidney or liver values on blood tests, abnormal urination, unexplained weight loss, and much more. We can also use ultrasound to look at some of the structures in the thorax (chest). We can't look inside the lungs, since ultrasound is impeded by air, but we can examine the heart and look for abnormalities such as fluid, enlarged lymph nodes, and tumors.