Dog Ultrasounds

What is ultrasonography?

Ultrasound imaging is the process of using sound waves to create pictures of internal organs. An ultrasound machine sends waves through a probe that is placed on the body. These waves then bounce off of the organs and echo back to the machine. A computer then takes these waves, which have changed frequency, and creates an image of the organ. Every organ, whether it be the liver or bladder, has a different density. Because of this, the waves echoed back to the machine are specific to that organ so the image can be created. The image created is a real time image. The images are in black and white. Every organ has a typical pattern in black and white that is considered normal. This allows for organ identification as well as identifications of abnormalities like tumors. This is extremely helpful when diagnosing certain illnesses and conducting ultrasound guided biopsies.

Is ultrasonography safe? Painful?

Ultrasonography is a noninvasive procedure that is very safe. It does not use radiation like an xray. In addition, it is not a painful procedure. At times, there is mild discomfort for the patient when pressure has to be applied with the probe. Certain organs are more difficult to view without applying pressure. But it is short lived and well tolerated by most patients.

What is the veterinarian looking for when doing an ultrasound?
Although other body parts can be assessed the most common type of ultrasound performed at Animal Medical Center is abdominal ultrasound. We evaluate abdominal organs for tissue changes, size, masses and sometimes perform biopsies. Below is a list of common findings and uses for abdominal ultrasound:

  • Evaluate Internal organs-
    • bladder-lining thickness, stones, obstruction,
    • Kidneys-size, obstruction of urine outflow, blood flow problems, stones
    • Adrenal glands-masses and enlarged size
    • Spleen- tissue changes, blood flow, tumors
    • Liver-tumors, overall size, vessel size, inflammation
    • Gall bladder-obstruction, thickened bile, wall size, bile duct problems
    • Stomach-wall size, foreign bodies, masses,
    • Pancreas-masses, inflammation
    • Intestines- inflammation, foreign bodies
    • Lymph nodes-enlargement
  • Is there abnormal fluid in the abdomen?
  • Pregnant dogs can be checked for viability of the puppies in late gestation
  • Obtaining a urine sample by visualizing the bladder with the ultrasound and drawing urine directly with a needle and syringe. This is called a ultrasound guided cystocentesis.
  • Biopsies of masses and some organs

Will my dog have to be sedated?

At Animal Medical Center, much effort is used so your dog does not have to be sedated. With the exception of biopsy procedures, we prefer to ultrasound our dogs without any sedation. The dogs simply have to sit still. The ultrasounds are performed in a dark, quiet room as to create a peaceful environment. Cushions and pillows are used to make the dog comfortable during the procedure. In addition, our technicians hold and provide comfort by talking to the dogs and petting them. If a dog simply is too stressed for the procedure, a light sedative is often used with the owners permission. This allows the dog to consciously relax so we may obtain the images we need.

Do all the veterinarians at Animal Medical Center perform ultrasounds?

No. Performing an ultrasound requires special training. Our veterinarians who perform ultrasounds have gone through hours of classes and hands on training. In addition, each veterinarian was required to take a test to receive certification in association with the telemedicine specialists. Dr. Kara Rowntree, Dr. Justin Propp and Dr. Cindy Cloud all perform ultrasounds at Animal Medical Center.

Who interprets the ultrasound images?

Animal Medical Center works with Oncura Partners, which is a veterinary diagnostic telemedicine company. Oncura employs veterinary ultrasonographers and veterinary radiologists who read our images and offer diagnosis. Sometimes recommendations on further testing and/or treatment is offered. At times, our veterinarians are able to evaluate images depending on the condition. But in several cases, the images are sent for consultation with a radiologist. This is a tremendous help and of great benefit as there are no specialists in Lubbock, Texas. Telemedicine has afforded us the ability of furthering the care for your dog by getting opinions from board certified radiologists. In addition, Oncura offers aid in difficult cases. There are times when certain organs are difficult to ultrasound. In these cases, our veterinarians are able to get assistance through telemedicine so they are sure the perfect images are obtained. The consultation report generally takes 2-3 days to complete in non emergency cases.

How do I make an appointment for my dog to have an ultrasound?

Because only certain veterinarians do ultrasounds, appointments have to be made. Often times, we ask your dog to be dropped off at a certain time. The veterinarian then sets time aside that day to do the ultrasound. We try our best to limit the time the dog has to stay at the hospital. Usually, a stay of 2-4 hours is expected.

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