Using Ultrasounds in the Veterinary Practice | National Medical

Pros of Using Ultrasound in Veterinary Practice

Example of ultrasound in veterinary practice - veterinarians are seen performing an ultrasound scan on a dog.

Ultrasound applications in the field of veterinary medicine are becoming increasingly common as use of sonography is not limited to human patients anymore. Like us, our pets too need to undergo ultrasound tests when they are in pain or under distress, owing to an ailment. Unlike us, however, our four-legged friends are unable to communicate any specific pains to doctors and can only do so through their actions. Therefore, it becomes especially relevant to use ultrasound in veterinary practice so vets can better understand your pet’s health and pinpoint exactly what is bothering them with ease.

While in the past, methods such as CT scans and MRIs were used, these days a veterinary ultrasound machine is the preferred imaging modality in most cases as it is able to give a better picture and is non-invasive, pain-free, less intense, radiation-free, and inexpensive. Moreover, as it provides an accurate and faster diagnosis resulting in early detection of disease, which speeds treatment decisions and administration, use of ultrasound in veterinary practice has now become prevalent.

In fact, it’s safe to say that ultrasound applications in veterinary care have transformed health care for our furry friends. Therefore, their popularity continues to increase as more and more veterinarians take advantage of the technology to offer prompt and improved healthcare to their feline, canine, and other animal patients. Just like in human medicine, ultrasound has both, diagnostic and therapeutic applications in veterinary science too, albeit with very few and slender differences in the equipment and process.

In this article, we examine the pros of using ultrasound in veterinary practice along with some examples of application in small animal veterinary medicine.

Key Advantages of Ultrasound in Veterinary Medicine 

  • Non-invasive – Ultrasound being non-invasive is especially relevant in veterinary science as animals are spared the distress and pain of invasive techniques like exploratory surgery.
  • Real-Time Imaging – Ultrasound allows real-time visualization of internal organs and tissues, enabling real-time monitoring of pets’ and fetuses’ health.
  • No side effects – Ultrasound doesn’t require medication or anesthesia, which makes it especially suitable for small animal veterinary medicine. Furthermore, unlike other imaging technologies, it doesn’t produce side effects. However, it should be noted that in some cases, it may be necessary to use mild sedation to help the pet lie still.
  • Speed and Affordability – Ultrasound provides accurate imaging much faster and is considerably more affordable, in comparison with other technologies.
  • Easy Access – Ultrasound is much more easily accessible too. In addition, developments in the technology have led to faster, compact, and portable machines that provide high-quality imaging, further enhancing their ready access and ease of use, even in emergency settings. Moreover, ultrasound equipment can now even be brought to the pet-owner’s home, allowing easy examination of the pet in the comfort of their own surroundings.
  • Easily Combined with Other Imaging Modalities – Ultrasound enables physicians to examine an organ or specific area more closely. Therefore, it is sometimes combined with X-rays to provide a more complete diagnosis.

Use of Ultrasound in Veterinary Practice

A cat is undergoing an ultrasound scan at a veterinary clinic.

Ultrasound is crucial in veterinary medicine as it allows vets to diagnose a range of conditions that animals are susceptible to. Being a comprehensive diagnostic tool, ultrasound enables vets to examine internal organs in precise detail, unlike X-rays that typically provide an overall picture of the area. An increasing number of veterinary clinics have adopted the tool to assist them in accurate diagnoses and other procedures.

Here we have outlined several conditions that ultrasound helps detect:

  • Ultrasound helps detect foreign objects that pets occasionally ingest. X-rays are unable to detect most of these objects, including substances like fabric, plastic, wood, and others[1]. Ultrasound, with its quick detection of foreign matter, enables vets to determine the right course of action for quick removal, potentially saving the pet from discomfort and pain and in some cases, even a life-threatening situation.
  • A common symptom for ordering an ultrasound in veterinary practice is chronically elevated liver enzymes[2].
  • Other common cues for getting a vet ultrasound are suspected cases of urinary tract disease, gastrointestinal disease, endocrine disease, neoplasia, trauma, fever of unknown origin, and immune mediated diseases.
  • A couple other common ailments in dogs and cats in which ultrasound can serve as a diagnostic tool are nonspecific inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatitis.
  • Unlike other imaging technologies like X-rays, ultrasound helps distinguish fluid from soft-tissue masses and foreign bodies, resulting in diagnoses of more medical conditions.
  • While a radiograph can be used, it is unable to help evaluate the abdomen clearly for an accurate diagnosis. The ultrasound is suitable for determining with greater precision problems with the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, adrenal glands, spleen, urinary bladder, pancreas, lymph nodes, and blood vessels.
  • Ultrasound can be used to determine cases of pericardial effusion and hemoabdomen, which affect the heart and the abdomen. Its ability to diagnose these conditions quicker, in comparison to other imaging technologies, translates into prompt treatment to remove blood from the abdomen or around the heart, thereby saving the patient’s life.
  • An echocardiogram helps assess the cardiac function and diagnose many heart conditions. It can also help examine blood flow, assess the quality of blood flow through arteries, and function of the heart valves.
  • An ultrasound device can assist in small biopsies of organs or masses, surgical procedures, and in obtaining urine from the bladder, among others. It’s also helpful in detecting or ruling out problems such as bladder stones or a urinary tract infection.
  • Ultrasound helps detect several abnormalities like kidney disease, tumors or a mass, including cancers, inflammation of gastrointestinal tract and many more.
  • Ultrasound also helps veterinarians to check whether an organ is enlarged.
  • Furthermore, ultrasound helps detect the number of fetuses along with determining the time of gestation. In addition, it can monitor the development of fetuses at each stage of the pregnancy. It can even monitor development of puppies and kittens.

National Ultrasound for All Your Veterinary Needs

All in all, ultrasound is not just for the traditional medical office; it has revolutionized small animal veterinary medicine by enabling vets to promptly deliver quality care. Furthermore, the pros of using ultrasound in veterinary practice are only expected to grow with rapidly advancing technology.

If your veterinary practice is considering adding an ultrasound machine, then contact one of our ultrasound pros today. They will be happy to answer your questions and concerns and assist you in selecting the ultrasound machine that matches the requirements of your veterinary practice, in the price range that you are comfortable with. We look forward to working with you!