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Taking your pet for an ultrasound? Here's what you should know.

Taking your pet for an ultrasound? Here's what you should know.

Your vet is recommending an ultrasound for your pet. So, what exactly is an ultrasound and how can it help your dog or cat? Our Winston-Salem Veterinary Specialists explain how ultrasounds help to make veterinary care more effective. 

Ultrasounds for Dogs & Cats

Whether your pet has gotten into something they shouldn't, possibly developed a tumor, or is believed to have a cyst, your vet may recommend an ultrasound scan to help form an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition. Ultrasounds are a form of imaging technology that transmits sound waves into your pet’s body to produce a 'picture' of a specific body part.

Ultrasounds are a gentle, non-invasive way to help your vet quickly and accurately diagnose or evaluate issues with your dog or cat's internal organs.

Why Your Vet May Recommend an Ultrasound

An ultrasound can help our Winston-Salem Internal Medicine Specialists examine the structure of your pet’s organs so we can discover, identify, and assess blockages, tumors or other problems.

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Winston-Salem ultrasounds are done in our in-house veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Our team of veterinary specialists uses ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to give you the most accurate diagnosis possible of your pet’s medical issues and provide your pet with the most effective treatment possible.

Ultrasound scans allow us to more easily distinguish soft tissue masses from foreign bodies or fluid - a task we might find challenging or impossible to accomplish with a digital x-ray. The sound waves the ultrasound generates are not harmful or painful to your cat or dog.

Conditions That May Require An Ultrasound

Heart Conditions

If your cat or dog is diagnosed with a heart condition, your primary care vet may refer you to our specialists for a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram in order to evaluate the overall condition of your animal's heart and to look for abnormalities.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

If your primary care veterinarian discovers abnormalities in your dog or cat's blood or urine tests, they may recommend an abdominal ultrasound in order to get a clear picture of the health of your pet's internal organs such as the lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys, liver, urinary bladder or other areas to learn why the abnormalities are occurring.

Examination of Soft Tissues

Ultrasound technology can be used to examine almost any of the soft tissues in your pet's body, including:

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

If your vet or veterinary specialist detects abnormal tissue during an ultrasound, they may also use the ultrasound to help collect tissue samples from the affected area.

Ultrasound-Assisted Tissue Collection

Samples are typically collected using these methods:

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

If your vet will be performing an ultrasound-assisted tissue collection, your pet may be sedated to help keep them still. We can perform biopsies in a less invasive manner with ultrasounds than with surgeries.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform these two types of ultrasounds:

Emergency Ultrasound

If your dog or cat is experiencing a medical emergency, the ultrasound can be utilized to give a clear picture of what's going on in your pet's abdomen and chest. This allows us to quickly learn whether your dog or cat has a serious internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or pneumothorax (a condition in which gas or air collects in the space surrounding the lungs).

Ultrasound scans assist emergency vets in diagnosing your animal's health issue quickly so that treatment can begin as sooner.


Cardiac ultrasounds or echocardiograms are detailed ultrasounds that allow your vet to closely assess your dog or cat's heart and its surrounding structures. This form of ultrasound scan can allow our veterinary specialists to assess whether the heart is functioning properly and whether there is a malfunction in the heart.

Although typically painless, echocardiograms require several measurements and calculations. If your pet was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur or is displaying signs of heart disease, they may be referred to our specialists for an echocardiogram.

How To Prepare Your Pet for an Ultrasound

Ultrasounds performed on different areas of your pet's body require different preparations. Speak to your vet to find out how to prepare your pet for their ultrasound.

You may be required to withhold food and water for between 8 and 12 hours, particularly for abdominal ultrasounds. We can best examine the urinary bladder when it is full or urine. This is why your cat or dog should not urinate for about 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound, if possible.

The area to be examined will likely be shaved so clear images can be produced. While most pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated.

If we identify an abnormal part of an organ, an ultrasound-guided biopsy may be performed to collect a sample of the affected tissue. This biopsy allows us to take a tissue sample, which can be inspected with a microscope to reveal more information. In many cases, this will result in a diagnosis.

If biopsies need to be done, your pet 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 vet will let you know if this is required.

Getting Your Pet's Ultrasound Results

Because our veterinary specialists can view the ultrasound images in real time we are often able to diagnoses problems immediately. In some cases, however, ultrasound images will be 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.

If your dog or cat requires a veterinary ultrasound ask your primary care vet for a referral to our team of Winston-Salem Veterinary Specialists. Contact us today to find out more about the advanced veterinary services offered at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Winston-Salem.

Caring for Winston-Salem Pets

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, we accept new clients to our specialty services by referral only. Our 24/7 emergency service welcomes all clients.

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