What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a painless method for imaging the body using very high pitched sound frequencies (higher than the human ear can hear).  Ultrasound is commonly used in both veterinary and human medicine for a wide variety of problems, including diseases of the liver, kidneys, bladder, stomach, intestines, adrenal glands, pancreas, spleen, reproductive tract, blood vessels, heart (often referred to as “echocardiography”), thorax, eye, and muscles/tendons.  Ultrasound is less useful for imaging structures like bone or air-filled structures like the lung.

Is ultrasound safe?  

Yes, ultrasound is very safe.  The main benefit of ultrasound is that it can provide useful information about the body without invasive surgery, injection of dyes, or ionizing radiation. In fact, you may be most familiar with ultrasound due to its common use in imaging of pregnant women and their unborn babies.


What happens during an ultrasound? 

During an abdominal ultrasound, the patient is usually placed on their side.  Although some pets are initially slightly anxious, almost all pets relax and remain calm once they realize that nothing painful is happening.  For pets that cannot, or will not, lie still on their backs, in some cases the examination can be performed with the patient laying on their side.  The hair on the underside of the belly will be shaved and a gel will be applied to the skin.  The images are obtained by placing the transducer (a smooth, handheld object, similar in size and shape to a small TV remote control) on the patient's skin and slowly moving the transducer around on the skin.  Many patients go to sleep during the procedure!