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Ultrasound Examination in Dogs

Ultrasound Examination in Dogs

If you've been informed that your dog requires an ultrasound, you may be wondering what this procedure entails and how it can benefit your dog. Our vets in Portland are here to clarify the process of performing ultrasound scans for dogs in our on-site veterinary diagnostic laboratory.

Veterinary Ultrasounds

It's not unusual for pets to experience health problems such as cysts or tumors requiring medical attention or accidentally ingest harmful substances. In such cases and others, your veterinarian may recommend an ultrasound to diagnose the issue and suggest appropriate treatment accurately.

Ultrasounds are a type of imaging technology that transmits sound waves into your pet's body to capture a 'picture' of a specific body part. 

Veterinary ultrasounds are non-invasive and may be used to diagnose or evaluate problems in an animal's internal organs or check on a pregnancy. 

Reasons Your Pet May Need an Ultrasound 

An ultrasound can help our vets in Portland examine the structure of your dog's internal organs. During this assessment, we may discover and identify obstructions, tumors, or other issues. 

At Cedar Mill Veterinary Hospital, our in-house veterinary diagnostic laboratory completes ultrasounds for dogs. Our team of veterinarians use ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to diagnose your pet's medical issues accurately, so your dog will receive the most effective treatment possible. 

Ultrasound can effectively differentiate foreign bodies or fluid from soft tissue masses, which may be difficult or impossible with a digital X-ray. The ultrasound generates sound waves, but they are not harmful or painful to your pet.

Conditions That May Require an Ultrasound 

Below are some typical ailments that often necessitate the use of veterinary ultrasounds.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results 

Has your vet discovered abnormalities in your pet's blood or urine tests? An abdominal ultrasound may be recommended so your vet can get a clear picture of the health of your dog's internal organs, such as the kidneys, lymph nodes, spleen, liver, urinary bladder, or other areas, and to learn why the abnormalities are occurring. 

Heart Conditions 

If your dog has been diagnosed with a heart condition, a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram may be needed so we can evaluate the general condition of your pet's heart and check for abnormalities. 

Examination of Soft Tissues 

Almost all soft tissues can be examined using ultrasound technology. Some of the most common areas that ultrasounds are used to check include:

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

If abnormal tissue is detected during an ultrasound, your veterinarian may also use this imaging technology to help collect tissue samples from the area that's been affected. 

Ultrasound-Assisted Tissue Collection

Samples are typically collected using these methods:

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

If your veterinarian plans to collect tissue using ultrasound, your pet will probably need to be sedated. Ultrasound-guided biopsies are a less invasive alternative to surgical biopsies.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform these two types of ultrasounds or refer you to a veterinary specialist to have them completed:

Emergency Ultrasound

If your dog is experiencing an emergency, the ultrasound will usually focus on the abdomen and chest to quickly learn whether your dog has a serious internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or 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.


These detailed ultrasounds are also known as cardiac ultrasounds. They help us closely assess the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac. The results of the assessment help us determine if the heart is functioning properly and if there is a malfunction in it. 

Although echocardiograms are typically painless, they require several measurements and calculations. If your pet was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur or is showing symptoms of heart disease, they may be referred to our specialists for an echocardiogram.

In case we identify an abnormal part of an organ, we may perform an ultrasound-guided biopsy to collect a tissue sample from the affected area. This biopsy allows us to inspect the tissue sample with a microscope, providing more information that can lead to a diagnosis in most cases.

How To Prepare Your Pet for an Ultrasound

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

You may be required to withhold food and water for between 8 and 12 hours, particularly for abdominal ultrasounds. We can best examine the urinary bladder when it is full of urine. This is why your dog should not urinate for about 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound, if possible.

The area to be examined will likely be shaved so clear images can be produced. While most pets will remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated.

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

Because our veterinarians can perform ultrasounds for pets in real-time, we can see results almost immediately. In some cases, ultrasound images will be sent to a veterinary radiologist after they're captured for further consultation. In these cases, you may need to wait a few days for the final result.

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.

Your veterinarian at Cedar Mill Veterinary Hospital can tell you whether your pet will need an ultrasound. Please contact our Portland veterinarians to book an appointment for an exam.

New Patients Welcome

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

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