So you’ve been to the vet and had a few tests done, probably an x-ray, some blood work, and a physical exam. For some reason, your pet is still off her food, and the tests are inconclusive. The vet suspects there is something wrong with your pet’s liver and needs to have a better look. Rather than cutting open the abdomen to look inside (a common practice only twenty years ago), ordering an ultrasound is a non-invasive way for a more thorough check of the issue. If you’ve ever wondered, when would my pet need an ultrasound, this is one of many circumstances that merit the use of this powerful diagnostic tool. Let’s dive a bit deeper.
We’ve pretty much all seen the poster-like images of a fetus borne from an ultrasound appointment. This image is made possible by a special kind of sound technology. Where an x-ray is able to see into bone and other more dense tissues, a highly-trained ultrasound technician with the appropriate technology can see into the details of the organs and other soft tissues.
There is a large difference between the ultrasound technology that is used to detect a fetus and those that can detect the vagaries in healthy (or unhealthy) liver tissue. The difference in resolution between these ultrasound models is what allows your technician or veterinary radiologist to observe the variations in the tissues that indicate potential problems.
There are two main reasons why an ultrasound is recommended. The first is for the targeted observation of an affected tissue. The second is for assisted observation during a tissue biopsy. In the first case, your veterinarian is looking for something in the tissues that can help indicate more specifically the issues at hand. It is a very non-invasive, accurate way to observe affected tissues without surgical intervention. This is often performed for evaluating the abdominal organs, lymphatic tissue, thyroid, evaluating for thoracic masses, and monitoring stages of pregnancy.
When an ultrasound is used to assist in a tissue biopsy, your pet will undergo anesthesia to ensure no movement during the procedure. Once under, a special tool (often either a fine needle aspirate or a core needle biopsy) is used to procure a tissue sample from the area. Usually, this is all it takes to determine the state of the tissue. Even so, there are cases that may require another procedure to ensure correct diagnosis.
If you’re scheduled for an ultrasound, make sure not to feed your pet after 8 pm the night before the exam. It is recommended stop feeding your pet at least 12 hours before the procedure. Even a small amount of food (including a treat or cookie) can prevent the ultrasound beam from seeing the organs under observation. It is okay to provide fresh water to keep them hydrated.
It is suggested to make sure that your pet arrives with a full bladder if you are having an abdominal or bladder ultrasound. This allows for better optics in the area. If your pet arrives with an empty bladder, they may have to board for a few hours first while the bladder fills again.
The area of the ultrasound will require shaving before the procedure commences. This is done to ensure accuracy during the ultrasound. Most abdominal exams require an area from the last few ribs to the pelvis and then about halfway up the back to be addressed. In non-abdominal exams, the area to be treated will be addressed in the most appropriate way. If you’re concerned about shaving, talk to your vet before the procedure.
After the exam, your pet will be discharged when they are conscious and stable. If they did not go under anesthesia then release is right away. Once home, your pet may urinate a lot due to the fluids in the anesthesia. Keep them away from stairs and only feed them a small meal at first. The effects of the drugs should be gone within 24-hours. If not, contact us right away.
If you’ve been asking the question ‘when would my pet need an ultrasound,’ hopefully you are now up to speed. There are always special conditions that may require special care, but in most cases, an ultrasound is used to view sensitive tissues and visually assists a biopsy process. This is a great way to provide a non-invasive diagnosis of challenging health conditions. If you suspect your pet is having a health issue, please give us a call today. The sooner a looming issue is addressed, the better the chances of swift recovery.