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Ultrasounds for Dogs & Cats

Ultrasounds for Dogs & Cats

You've just found out that your dog or cat needs an ultrasound. So, what exactly is an ultrasound and how can it help your pet? Our Bellevue vets explain how ultrasound scans are performed on pets in our in-house veterinary diagnostic lab.

Ultrasounds For Pets

Our pets frequently get into things they shouldn't or develop health problems like cysts or tumors that necessitate treatment. Ultrasounds are a type of imaging technology that uses sound waves to create a 'picture' of a specific part of your pet's body.

Veterinary ultrasounds are non-invasive and can be used to diagnose or evaluate problems with your pet's internal organs or check on your pet's pregnancy.

Reasons Your Pet May Need An Ultrasound

At Sawtooth Animal Center in Bellevue, ultrasounds are done in our in-house veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Our team of veterinary specialists use ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to provide an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s medical issues, so we can provide your pet with the most effective treatment possible.

We can distinguish soft tissue masses from foreign bodies or fluid by using ultrasound, which would be difficult or impossible to do with a digital x-ray. The sound waves produced by the ultrasound are not harmful or painful to your cat or dog.

Conditions That May Require An Ultrasound

Heart Conditions

If your cat or dog has a heart condition, your primary care veterinarian may refer you to our specialists for a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram to assess the overall health of your animal's heart and look for abnormalities.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

If your veterinarian discovers abnormalities in your pet's blood or urine tests, he or she may recommend an abdominal ultrasound 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 determine why the abnormalities are occurring.

Examination of Soft Tissues

Almost all soft tissues can be examined thanks to ultrasound technology. A few of the most common areas that ultrasounds are used on include:

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

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 will likely be sedated. 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 pet is in distress, the ultrasound will usually focus on the abdomen and chest to determine whether your dog or cat is suffering from a serious internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or a pneumothorax (a condition in which gas or air collects in the space surrounding the lungs).

This can assist us in diagnosing the issue quickly. We can then plan effective treatment.


Also referred to as cardiac ultrasounds, with these detailed ultrasounds we can closely assess the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac. This will tell us whether the heart is functioning properly and whether there is a malfunction in the heart.

Echocardiograms, while usually painless, necessitate a number of measurements and calculations. If your pet has a heart murmur or is showing signs of heart disease, they may be referred to our specialists for an echocardiogram.

Once an abnormal part of an organ has been identified, an ultrasound-guided biopsy can be performed to collect a sample of the affected tissue. This biopsy allows us to obtain a tissue sample, which can then be examined under a microscope to reveal additional information. This will almost always result in a diagnosis.

How To Prepare Your Pet for an Ultrasound

Ultrasounds on different areas require different preparations. Speak to your vet to find out how to prepare your pet for their ultrasound.

For abdominal ultrasounds, you may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for 8 to 12 hours. When the urinary bladder is full of urine, we can examine it more thoroughly. This is why, if possible, your cat or dog should not urinate for 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound.

The area to be examined will most likely be shaved in order to produce clear images. While the majority of pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will require sedation.

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 veterinarian will let you know if this is necessary.

Getting Your Pet's Ultrasound Results

We can see results almost immediately because our veterinarians can perform an ultrasound in real time. After being captured, ultrasound images are sometimes sent to a veterinary radiologist for further consultation. You may have to wait a few days for the final result in these cases.

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.

Does your dog or cat require an ultrasound? Contact our Bellevue vets today. We would be more than happy to schedule an appointment and explain the procedure with you.

New Patients Welcome

Sawtooth Animal Center Bellevue is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Bellevue companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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