If you've learned that your furry friend is in need of an ultrasound, you may have many questions about the process. Here, our Madison vets share some important information about canine ultrasounds, the different types and what to expect if your puppy or adult dog needs one.

What to Expect When Your Dog or Puppy Needs an Ultrasound

Ultrasounds are a type of imaging technology that can be used to diagnose or evaluate health problems with your dog's internal organs and structures or to diagnose and monitor pregnancy. They transmit sound waves into the body to produce an image of a specific part of the body. Veterinary ultrasounds can show the movement of the organs and blood flowing through blood vessels in real-time. These tools allow us to analyze your pet's internal structures without opening them up for surgery.

Types of Canine Ultrasounds

Types of veterinary ultrasound exams for dogs include:

Abdominal ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound can detect abnormalities, bleeding or an intestinal blockage within the abdomen.

Echocardiogram: This type of ultrasound provides an image of the internal structures of the heart. Your vet will be able to see the heart chambers, blood flow through the heart, and the sac that encloses the heart (pericardial sac).

Single-organ ultrasound: This type of ultrasound is limited to viewing one structure, such as the uterus scan of a pregnant dog.

Thoracic ultrasound: Thoracic ultrasounds are used when a vet wants to examine the lungs and the space around them.

Soft-tissue ultrasound: Soft-tissue ultrasound is used to evaluate muscles, tendons, and ligaments within your dog's body.

Why Would a Dog Need an Ultrasound?

A dog may need an ultrasound for many reasons, such as:

Traumatic injury: If your vet suspects issues like internal bleeding or a ruptured bladder, they may perform an emergency ultrasound.

Cancer: If your dog has masses within the abdomen, enlarged lymph nodes, and other changes associated with cancer, then your vet may perform an ultrasound to gain better insight.

Chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea: If your dog is experiencing prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, then your vet may perform an ultrasound of the gastrointestinal system to diagnose the cause.

Urinary tract issues: If your dog is showing signs of a urinary condition, the bladder and kidneys can be scanned for stones or masses.

Pregnancy: Your vet may perform an ultrasound on your dog's uterus to diagnose pregnancy, determine the number of fetuses, and evaluate the health of the fetuses.

Heart disease: If heart issues are suspected, your vet may perform an echocardiogram to look at the heart's internal structures.

Abnormal lab work or chronic illness: Ultrasound may be used to identify the causes of abnormal lab results or chronic illness.

Preparing Your Dog for an Ultrasound

Preparations for an ultrasound vary depending on the type of ultrasound being performed and the area of the body to be examined. Your vet can provide you with specific instructions.

You may be required to withhold food and water for up to 12 hours, particularly for abdominal ultrasounds. We can best examine the urinary bladder when it is full of urine, so your cat or dog should not urinate for about three to six hours before the ultrasound, if possible.

The area of your dog’s body being scanned is usually shaved, and ultrasound gel is applied. The gel provides better contact between the probe and the skin, allowing the sound waves to pass into the body without passing through air. The veterinarian will then move a probe on your pet’s body surface and evaluate the image transmitted to the screen. 

If biopsies need to be done, your dog 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.

What to Expect From Your Dog's Results

Because ultrasounds can be performed in real-time, we can see results almost immediately. In some cases, ultrasound images are 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.

Is your dog experiencing symptoms of concern that may benefit from an ultrasound? Contact our Madison vets today to schedule an initial examination.