If your vet decided your dog needs an ultrasound to further investigate his upset stomach, it’s good to be prepared on what to expect. Your vet may suggest to fast your dog from the night before since a food-filled tummy may not allow proper visualization of the abdomen. On top of that, should your dog require sedation or anesthesia, there are less chances for food aspiration. Follow your vet’s guidelines carefully. While most dogs do not require sedation or anesthesia for an ultrasound, particularly nervous or fractious pets may do better with a sedative and some may require to be put under. Also, anesthesia may be needed should your dog require a biopsy.
What happens during an ultrasound for dogs? The ultrasound used in veterinary medicine is the same as used in humans when taking a look at the development of babies. It’s a fast, non-invasive procedure that delivers fast results. A hand-held probe that sends sound waves is placed on a shaved area on your dog’s abdomen. When moved from place to place, the sound waves are converted into images that are displayed on a screen. The procedure from start to finish can take anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes. While effective many times, it’s important to consider that in some cases, an ultrasound may not be conclusive as far as diagnosis goes, and additional tests may be required.
When an ultrasound is ordered for issues related to the gastrointestinal tract, an ultrasound may prove helpful in detecting foreign bodies, but when it comes to distinguishing inflammatory conditions and cancerous masses things may get iffy with an ultrasound and your dog may need to be further evaluated through other procedures such as ultrasound guided diagnostic techniques, endoscopy or exploratory surgery, explains veterinary radiologist, Dr. Ryan King.
Through the ultrasound, your vet can observe important organs such as the stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver intestines, kidneys, bladder, uterus and prostate gland. The vet may also detect any abnormal masses, enlarged lymph nodes and presence of abdominal fluid. If anything abnormal is observed, the vet can perform what is called an “ultrasound guided aspiration” or an” ultrasound guided biopsy.”
In an ultrasound-guided aspiration, ultrasound helps guide a fine needle which can be used to aspirate a small sample of fluid; whereas, in an ultrasound guided biopsy, the ultrasound helps guide a biopsy instrument to obtain a piece of tissue. Both the aspirated fluid and the tissue sample would then be further evaluated.
If your dog needs an ultrasound so to better understand the origin of his stomach upset and your vet is puzzled by some medical mystery, your best bet is to go to a board-certified radiologist who has received advanced training in the always evolving field of diagnostic imaging. Your vet can refer you to one or you can inquire if a referral is needed by looking for a veterinary radiologist near you by visiting the American College of Veterinary Radiology website.
Ultrasound equipment is expensive! It can cost up to $250,000 which may explain why veterinary costs seem to be skyrocketing in these years. As more and more sophisticated machinery is added, the costs keep going up.This explains why the cost of a dog ultrasound may range anywhere between $250 and $500 dollars!