Veterinary Ultrasound FAQ’s

FAQ’s about Pet Ultrasound Testing

Ultrasound or Ultrasound with Biopsy

Your pet is scheduled to have an ultrasound procedure. This information sheet will give you an idea of what is involved in the procedure and what to expect. There are no known harmful effects associated with routine veterinary ultrasounds. When guided sampling (biopsy) is needed, there is a low possibility of complications occurring. Please discuss with your veterinarian.

What is an ultrasound?

Ultrasound is an imaging technique based on the use of sound waves and offers a non-invasive, non-painful method for diagnosis and staging of many diseases.

Why has an ultrasound been recommended?

Ultrasound is an excellent tool for evaluating the internal abdominal organs (liver, gallbladder, kidneys, urinary bladder, lymph nodes), checking for pregnancy, evaluating for thoracic masses, and other structures (for example, thyroid and parathyroid). This test is typically done after blood tests, x-rays, or a physical examination indicates a possible problem. Ultrasound is also an excellent tool to obtain tissue samples without putting your pet through an invasive surgery. There is a specific ultrasound called an echocardiogram that is used to visualize the heart and blood vessels as well as the valves of the heart. The results of the ultrasound will help the veterinarian make a definitive diagnosis and offer you the best options for treating your pet. On the other hand, it is not good at seeing through air or bone, so it does not replace radiography but rather is complementary to the information we can get from radiographs. It is common to do both x-rays and ultrasound in order to get a complete picture of what is going on with a patient.

Can my pet urinate prior to an abdominal ultrasound or bladder ultrasound?

It is best if your pet arrives to their appointment with a full bladder so that the veterinarian has the best opportunity to perform a thorough ultrasound. If this is not possible your pet may have to board for a few hours to give time for the bladder to fill back up.

How should I prepare my pet for the ultrasound?

Pets having an ultrasound should not eat for twelve hours prior to the procedure; therefore, please do not feed your pet after 8 p.m. the night before the exam. Please continue to provide free access to fresh water. The presence of food in the stomach makes it more difficult for the ultrasound to penetrate to the organs to be studied. Even if the animal has only a small meal or a “cookie”, he or she may swallow gas with it, which will block the ultrasound beam. Ask your veterinarian for instructions if your pet is on any medications.

Pets having an ultrasound with biopsy

A fine needle aspirate/core needle biopsy are methods of collecting cells or tissue from a specific site such as an organ (kidney or liver), an undetermined mass, or area to look for signs of infection, cancer, or other conditions. The veterinarian inserts a needle or biopsy instrument into the area and withdraws a sample of tissue. The material is then examined under a microscope. A fine needle aspirate and/or core needle biopsy may be the only test you need to find out whether an area is diseased; however, in some cases your pet may need another procedure. Pets having an ultrasound with biopsy must be anesthetized so that they remain still for the exam. In preparation for general anesthesia, they should not eat after 8 p.m. the night before the exam. Ask your veterinarian for instructions if your pet is on any medications. If fasting is not possible (ie diabetic patient) please ask the veterinarian for instructions.

Your pet will have an area of hair / coat shaved

To ensure the best ultrasound results possible, we will shave your pet. For most abdominal exams, we shave from the last few ribs to the brim of the pelvis, and about one third of the way up the side towards the back. A larger area may be needed depending on the specific areas being examined and your pet’s body shape. For non-abdominal exams, ask your veterinarian what area will be shaved if you are concerned. We make every effort to shave carefully, but some pets may experience mild “razor burn”.

What should I bring to the appointment?

We will ask your regular veterinarian to fax us a copy of the medical record so that you do not need to be responsible. However, if your veterinarian has any x-rays that they are unable to email to us in time for the appointment, we ask that you please bring those to the appointment.

What happens to my pet after the ultrasound procedure?

If an ultrasound with biopsy is performed in most cases you will be unable to see from where the sample was taken, but please watch for bleeding, redness, or swelling over the next couple of days.

If sedated or anesthetized your pet will be disoriented and off balance for a couple hours. We will watch your pet closely until he/she has recovered. Once your pet is standing and able to move around safely, they will discharged. You will be notified as to when you may pick up your pet.

Your pet may urinate a large amount after returning home because of fluids that may be given during the anesthesia. Once home, it will be important to keep your pet away from stairs and obstacles and feed only a small meal. The effects of the sedation / anesthesia should be gone within about 24 hours. If you feel your pet has not fully recovered by that time, please call us or your regular veterinarian.

How will I learn the results of the ultrasound?

The veterinarian who performed your pet’s procedure will either discuss the results with you or they will discuss them with an associate veterinarian on site so they can go over the results with you. A report will also be completed and which faxed to your regular veterinarian.