Has your vet recommended an ultrasound for your pet? Our Rock Hill vets share the details of this procedure and how it can help your pet. 

What is a veterinary ultrasound?

Experienced pet owners understand that, despite their best efforts, their energetic four-legged companions may get into things they shouldn't, or develop conditions or tumors that require treatment.

Ultrasounds transmit sound waves into an animal's body, producing an image of specific internal structures.

The technology used in ultrasounds is safe and non-invasive. Your veterinarian can also leverage it to diagnose pericardial effusion and hemoabdomen (blood surrounding the heart and in the abdomen). 

Why does my pet need an ultrasound?

To find and identify objects, your vet can use an ultrasound to see the architecture of your pet's organs. Our veterinarians at Catawba Animal Clinic can accurately diagnose your pet's medical issues using ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools, allowing for effective treatment to be administered.

This tool allows us to distinguish between soft tissue masses, foreign bodies, and fluid — a task that a digital X-Ray may find difficult. The ultrasound creates sound waves that are neither painful nor harmful to your dog or cat.

Here are some examples of conditions that may need an ultrasound to detect. 

Heart Conditions

If your dog or cat has a heart condition, your vet may recommend an echocardiogram to help find out whether your pet will require heart medication.

Examination of Soft Tissues

An ultrasound can be used to examine almost all of the body’s soft tissues to evaluate:

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

If abnormal tissue is discovered during the ultrasound, a vet may be able to collect tissue samples.

How are samples collected?

These methods are typically used to collect samples:

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

Your dog may need to be sedated with these methods. Biopsies can be performed with ultrasound imaging, in a less invasive manner than surgery would entail.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

If abnormalities are discovered in your dog’s blood or urine tests, an abdominal ultrasound may be recommended.

This can help our veterinary team see internal organs such as lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys, urinary bladder, liver or other areas to find out what’s causing the specific abnormalities.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform one of these two types of ultrasounds:


We can use echocardiograms to examine the heart and the structures surrounding it, including the pericardial sac, to determine whether the heart is working properly. If your pet's heart isn't working properly, this can also help you figure out what's wrong.

These detailed ultrasounds, which are usually painless, necessitate a plethora of calculations and measurements. If your pet has heart disease symptoms or was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur, your veterinarian may recommend one..

Emergency Ultrasounds

Due to the sudden nature of emergency situations, ultrasounds are typically concentrated on the abdomen and chest to quickly look for pneumothorax (a condition in which air or gas collects in the region around the lungs) or significant internal bleeding.

We can use emergency ultrasounds to help quickly identify and diagnose the issue, then develop an effective treatment plan.

How should I prepare for a veterinary ultrasound?

Ask your vet how you should prepare for the ultrasound. Leading up to your pet’s ultrasound appointment, you may need to withhold water and food for 8 to 12 hours, specifically for abdominal ultrasounds.

To take clear pictures, the area that will be examined by your veterinarian will be shaved. While the majority of animals won't have any trouble staying still during the ultrasound, some will require sedation.

If biopsies are required, your cat or dog will require a strong sedative or a quick-acting anesthetic to help them relax during the procedure and avoid any potential issues that might jeopardize the outcome. If this is necessary, your veterinarian will inform you.

When will I find out the results of the examination?

We can practically see results right away because our veterinarians can perform an ultrasound in real time. A veterinary radiologist may be consulted further after receiving ultrasound images, in some cases, for further guidance. For the outcome in these situations, you might have to wait a few days.

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.

Do you have questions about your pet's upcoming ultrasound, or our imaging capabilities at Catawba Animal ClinicContact our Rock Hill veterinary team to schedule a consultation. Our vets are here to diagnose and treat your pet and address your concerns.