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Diagnostic Imaging

Ultrasound (Abdominal, Thoracic, Musculoskeletal, Thyroid/Parathyroid)

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to look inside your pet’s body at the soft tissue structures without having to perform surgery. The ultrasound machine sends sound waves into your pet’s body and then listens for the echoes. The machine interprets these echoes to form a picture of the inside of your pet’s body.

Ultrasound will not harm your pet and provides valuable information. Our radiologists use ultrasound to examine internal organs for shape, location, size, texture and blood supply. Coupled with other imaging, bloodwork and specialist input, ultrasound is a powerful and versatile diagnostic tool.

Possible reasons your pet may need an ultrasound:

  • Change in urinary habit
  • Prolonged vomiting or diarrhea
  • Abnormal blood work
  • Chronic infection
  • Weight loss
  • Cancer staging
  • Fluid in the chest or abdomen
  • Pre-surgical work-up
  • Recheck of a previous problem
  • Endocrine disease
  • Lameness
  • Non-invasive tissue sampling
  • Therapeutic injection or cyst ablation

What to Expect When Your Pet Has an Ultrasound

One of our veterinary technicians will take your pet to the ultrasound room. Unfortunately, we don’t allow owners to accompany pets during their ultrasound exam, but we promise to make your pet as comfortable as possible. Because sounds waves don’t like to travel through hair, we will have to shave the area of your pet being scanned. The ultrasound probe needs as much contact with your pet’s skin as possible. Your pet will be gently restrained during the exam by one of our veterinary technicians who will also make sure your pet receives plenty of reassuring rubs. Pets may rest on their back or side on a padded surface for the ultrasound exam.

Occasionally a pet will require sedation. Our radiologist will apply a warm, water-based gel and a small amount of pressure to the area being scanned.

Typically, exams take 20-30 minutes to complete in order to get the best images. However, some exams may take longer. If the exam is going to take longer than anticipated, we will make sure your pet has a chance to stretch and wiggle around.

Once the exam is complete, our radiologist will discuss the results and what next steps need to be taken next. Whether other departments at our hospital are brought in or additional tests recommended, we will communicate everything to you and to your primary care veterinarian.

Hands-Free Radiology

Why are we asking about sedation? Know that your pet’s safety and comfort are always our first priority. Sometimes sedation is in their best interest. Many people are anxious about going to the dentist and find it helpful to utilize mild sedation to make it a less stressful experience, even if they know they are just getting their teeth cleaned. Imagine you are a dog getting an x-ray and don’t understand what is happening.

Sedation can be used for pets for a variety of reasons, including helping to take x-rays and to perform ultrasounds. Getting x-rays can be scary for some pets. They are in a dark, unfamiliar room with a machine that makes strange noises. They also need to stay still in a position that allows for high-quality x-rays that can give us the answers we need to help your pet.

We use various techniques to help make this less stressful for our patients, sometimes including sedation. Not every pet will need sedation. Please know that if your pet would benefit from sedation, it does not mean they are a naughty pet.

What Is Hands-Free Radiology?

BluePearl has adopted a policy to be ahead of the curve on limiting human exposure to radiation during x-rays. Traditionally in veterinary medicine pets have been held down by nursing staff for x-rays. We are using the modern approach of hands-free radiology to protect our team from unnecessary radiation exposure. This may involve the use of sedation to help keep patients relaxed for their x-rays. We appreciate your support in helping us protect our staff and keep your pet comfortable.

What Do I Need to Know About Sedation in My Pet?

For most pets, we can use the mild sedative butorphanol to accomplish what we need to. This medication is safe enough that it is routinely used on patients in heart failure or respiratory distress. It is typically short-acting, although every pet processes medications differently and you may notice some sedation. Other pets and some procedures require heavier types of medications.

Administration of any medication can come with some risk. We closely monitor sedated patients for any side effects and treat them accordingly. For the majority of patients, mild lingering sedation may be seen and it is common for them to get a little more sleepy when they get home in their familiar environment.

Our doctors will use their best judgment to determine the most appropriate type and dose of sedation for your pet. We strive to use the lowest dose of medications possible and always consider any known medical conditions when choosing sedation. We also have specialists with board certification in anesthesia, analgesia and critical care who are extensively trained in these medications and can help with these decisions — our doctors understand how to choose the best sedation for even the sickest patient.