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Why does my pet need an Ultrasound?

How does an ultrasound machine work?

Sound waves are emitted from an ultrasound scanning probe that is placed onto the skin of the animal. These waves travel internally and bounce of internal organs. They are then picked up again by the ultrasound probe and sent to the ultrasound machine that converts the waves into moving images viewed by the vet on a computer screen. 

The ultrasound machine can be used for gaining images of many areas of the body, such as the internal structures of eye, the heart and the abdominal organs. 

What happens during an ultrasound scan? Depending on which areas are to be examined, the fur of the animal is clipped so that the probe can be placed directly onto the skin. Ultrasound gel is applied to the skin as this helps get the clearest image possible. The animal is positioned for the scan, often this is lying on their side. The scan is then performed and the vet views the images in real time. The images can also be saved so that the vet can review them at a later time. It is best that the animal is relaxed and still during a scan and so for many investigations sedation or general anaesthetic is given. 

Some ultrasound scans can be carried out on fully conscious animals, such as eye scans, heart scans or pregnancy scans. Sometimes the ultrasound machine can be used to help carry out minor procedures, such as taking urine samples from the bladder or small biopsies from internal organs, as the vet can use the machine to visualise where the instruments are within the body.

Is the ultrasound dangerous to the animal?

There are no known risks of sound waves to the animal. This is especially important when considering pregnancy scans as alternatives such as xrays can be harmful to unborn foetuses. Although generally very safe, sedation and general anaesthesia can carry some risk in some patients. Your vet will only recommend it if it will be of no serious health risk to your pet.