The Benefits of Using an Ultrasound in Small Animal Medicine

Posted on August 29, 2022

by Dr. Terri Argotsinger

Posted August 29, 2022

The veterinary staff at Ankeny Animal & Avian Clinic are always striving to provide the best diagnostics and care for your pet.  One of our newer additions to our diagnostic tool options is the use of abdominal ultrasound. Often paired with x-rays, an ultrasound provides a clearer look at internal organs and allows us to detect issues that cannot be seen clearly with just a simple x-ray. But how does it do this and what can we detect with ultrasound?

THE BASICS OF AN ULTRASOUND

An ultrasound is an imaging procedure that uses sound waves that aren’t audible to the human ear. These waves will “echo” off the corresponding site in question, which produces images on a screen.  Different types of tissue (e.g. fluids, gas, abdominal structures) will show up in different degrees of black and white, allowing us to identify individual organs, determine their shape/size, and examine internal detail. 

 

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REASONS AN ULTRASOUND MAY BE RECOMMENDED?

An abdominal ultrasound can detect a number of different issues, such as:

  • Pregnancy, including an estimate of the number of puppies/kittens present
  • Ingested foreign material
  • Abnormal organ size or shape
  • Stones in the urinary bladder or kidneys
  • Fluid in abdomen (including the ability to safely obtain a sample of it)
  • Tumors/masses, including certain cancers (including the ability to obtain a biopsy of some areas)
  • Quality of blood flow through the arteries

 

THE ADVANTAGES OF ULTRASOUND IN VETERINARY MEDICINE

  • An ultrasound offers a “real-time” look at internal organs. This is most often utilized with pets who are pregnant and to gauge the health of puppies and kittens as they develop. We can also use the ultrasound to view blood flow in arteries/veins or through organs.
  • It’s noninvasive. Many pets will need some mild sedation for a complete scan, but emergency or brief scans can usually be performed without sedation. 
  • It is repeatable, such as with each new stage of a pregnancy or to monitor progression of disease.
  • It allows us to view the internal organs with greater precision than an x-ray would allow.
  • There are no side effects of an ultrasound. The sound waves noted above are not harmful to your pet (or any potential puppies/kittens), even if repeated.
  • As we can usually get you scheduled within a week of your initial visit, an ultrasound is often more timely than waiting for a CT or MRI at a local referral center.

 

If you have any questions regarding ultrasound procedures or if you’re wondering if your pet could benefit from an ultrasound, please reach out to us.  We’d be happy to answer any questions that may come up! 

Examples of what we can find on an ultrasound exam:

 

This is a tumor on the spleen of a dog.  

 

 

 

 

Another example of a tumor on a dog’s spleen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a puppy in the uterus of a pregnant dog!  

By Dr. Terri Argotsinger

Dr. Terri graduated from Iowa State University's college of veterinary medicine in 2008 and has been living/practicing in the Des Moines area for the last 13 years. She's been a vet at Ankeny Animal & Avian Clinic since 2017. She has three orange cats at home that love to keep her busy!
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