Patients at Creekside Veterinary Hospital have access to one of the most progressive means of non-invasively diagnosing and treating diseases, the Ultrasound examination.

An ultrasound scan is a medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to capture live images from the inside of your pets body. The technology is similar to that used by sonar and radar, which help the military detect planes and ships. An ultrasound allows your veterinarian to see problems with organs, vessels, and tissues—without needing to make an incision.

Most people associate ultrasound scans with pregnancy. These scans can provide an expectant mother with the first view of her unborn child. However, the test has many other uses. Your veterinarian may order an ultrasound if you pet is experiencing pain, swelling, or other symptoms that require an internal view of your organs. An ultrasound can provide a view of the bladder, brain (in infants), eyes, gallbladder, kidneys, liver, ovaries, pancreas, spleen, thyroid, testicles, prostate, and even blood vessels. An ultrasound is also a helpful way to guide surgeons’ movements during certain medical procedures, such as biopsies.

The steps you will take to prepare your pet for an ultrasound will depend on the area or organ that is being examined. Your veterinarian may tell you to fast your pet for eight to 12 hours before the ultrasound, especially if the abdomen is being examined. Undigested food can block the sound waves, making it difficult for the ultrasound to get a clear picture.

It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and ask any questions you may have prior to the procedure. Rest assured, an ultrasound carries no risks. Unlike X-rays or CT scans, ultrasounds use no radiation. For this reason, they are the preferred method for examining a developing fetus during pregnancy.

Before the exam, your pet will be placed in an upside down or sideways position and have their hair gently clipped. Some animals will rest comfortably in a specially designed ultrasound “bed” or “boat.” The gentle pressure and position of the ultrasound make many patients fall asleep during the procedure. Your veterinarian will apply a special lubricating jelly to your pets skin. This prevents friction so he or she can rub the ultrasound transducer—similar in appearance to a microphone—on the skin. The jelly also helps transmit the sound waves.

The transducer sends high-frequency sound waves through the body. The waves echo as they hit a dense object, such as an organ or bone. Those echoes are then reflected back into a computer. The sound waves are at too high of a pitch for the human ear to hear.

After the procedure, the gel will be cleaned off the skin and the whole procedure typically lasts less than 30 minutes. Following the ultrasound, your pet will be free to go about their normal day and activities.

Following the exam, your veterinarian will review the images and check for any abnormalities. He or she will call you to discuss the findings, or to schedule a follow-up appointment. Should anything abnormal turn up on the ultrasound, you may need to undergo other diagnostic techniques, such as a CT scan, MRI, or a biopsy sample of tissue. If your veterinarian is able to make a diagnosis of your condition based on your ultrasound, he or she may begin your treatment immediately.

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