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Ultrasound for Dogs and Cats: What Pet Owners Want to Know

Situations may arise where yoru cat or dog may need to have a veterinary ultrasound. Here, our Brooklyn vets share some information about ultrasounds for dogs and cats, including when they may be used and what you can expect.

Veterinary Ultrasounds for Pets at Heart of Brooklyn Veterinary Hospital

Our pets are prone to several illnesses and conditions, such as tumors, cysts, or ingesting foreign objects that can cause internal blockages. Ultrasounds are a diagnostic imaging technique that uses sound waves to generate real-time images of your cat or dog's body. Veterinary ultrasounds are quick and noninvasive and can be used to diagnose and evaluate various internal organ problems in your pet. They are also helpful for monitoring your pet's pregnancy.

What is an ultrasound machine?

An ultrasound machine produces images of the internal structures, allowing your vet to examine areas that can't be seen with the naked eye. The ultrasound machine sends out high-frequency sound waves reflecting off body structures to create these images. The data collected by these waves is then sent to a computer showing the image.

Is radiation used in veterinary ultrasounds?

As we mentioned above, ultrasounds use sound waves to produce images. This means that no radiation is needed when your pet needs an ultrasound.

Reasons Your Pet May Need An Ultrasound

Our vets in Brooklyn can perform ultrasounds to examine your pet's organs and detect any blockages, tumors, or other medical issues. At , we have an in-house veterinary diagnostic laboratory where our vets use diagnostic tools, including ultrasounds, to diagnose accurately. With the help of these tools, we can identify your pet's medical problems and offer the most effective treatment possible.

Types of Ultrasounds for Cats & Dogs

Two types of ultrasounds are commonly performed on pets. They are:

Emergency Ultrasound

If your pet is in an emergency, the ultrasound will typically concentrate on the abdomen and chest areas to quickly determine whether your dog or cat is experiencing a serious internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or pneumothorax (a condition in which gas or air accumulates in the area surrounding the lungs). This can help us diagnose the problem quickly and plan for effective treatment.


Cardiac ultrasounds, or echocardiograms, are detailed scans that allow us to closely examine the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac. They help us determine whether the heart is functioning properly or if there are any abnormalities. Although echocardiograms are generally painless, they involve taking various measurements and calculations.

If your pet has recently been diagnosed with a heart murmur or is showing signs of heart disease, they may be referred to a specialist for an echocardiogram. This test is particularly useful in cases where an organ shows abnormalities. An ultrasound-guided biopsy can be performed to obtain a tissue sample for further examination under a microscope. This biopsy aids in making a diagnosis in many instances.

Conditions Commonly Diagnosed & Monitored Using Ultrasound

Heart Problems

Suppose your dog or cat has been diagnosed with a heart condition. In that case, your vet may refer you to a specialist for a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram to help evaluate the condition and function of your pet's heart and to search for any abnormalities.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

Suppose your veterinarian discovers anomalies in your pet's urine tests or blood samples. In that case, they may recommend that your companion get an ultrasound to obtain a visual representation of the internal organs like lymph nodes, kidneys, bladder, and more and try to identify what is causing the issue.

Diagnostic Imaging of Soft Tissue Injuries & Illness

Ultrasound technology allows for detailed examination of various soft tissues, including commonly examined areas:

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

If abnormal tissue is spotted during an ultrasound, the vet may also use the ultrasound to help collect tissue samples from the affected area.

Ultrasound-Assisted Tissue Collection & Biopsies

Samples are typically collected using these methods:

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

If your vet performs an ultrasound-assisted tissue collection, your pet will likely be sedated. We can perform biopsies in a less invasive manner with ultrasounds than with surgeries.

Do you need to prepare your cat or dog for an ultrasound?

Different ultrasounds may require specific preparations for your pet's body. It is essential to consult your vet for specific guidelines to help prepare your pet for the ultrasound.

For some ultrasounds, like abdominal ultrasounds, you may need to withhold food and water from your pet for up to 12 hours before the procedure. This will allow for a better examination of the abdominal area. In the case of bladder ultrasounds, it is advisable not to allow your cat or dog to urinate for three to six hours before the procedure so that the bladder can be adequately assessed.

The area being examined will typically be shaved to ensure clear images can be obtained. Although most pets remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some may require sedation to help them stay calm.

If biopsies are necessary after the ultrasound, your pet will require a stronger sedative or anesthesia to help them remain calm and prevent complications. Your vet will inform you if this is necessary.

Will your pet need anesthesia for an ultrasound?

Anesthesia is not usually used on pets having an ultrasound. This is because the procedure is non-invasive and painless. Your vet may use a sedative if your furry friend is easily frightened or restless.

What to Expect Once the Ultrasound is Finished

Your veterinarians can conduct real-time ultrasound scans so that you will receive the results immediately. However, in certain cases, the ultrasound images may need to be sent to a veterinary radiologist for further examination, which may delay a few days before the outcome is determined.

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 pet will be having an ultrasound at Heart of Brooklyn Veterinary Hospital and you have any questions, contact our Brooklyn veterinary team.

New Patients Welcome

Heart of Brooklyn Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Brooklyn companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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