Santa Fe – An ultrasound, sometimes referred to as a sonogram, uses sound waves to look inside the body and make an image that we can see on the screen.
Many people have some experience with ultrasound, as it’s frequently used in human medicine to look at the growing baby during pregnancy. It is commonly used to monitor pregnancy in many other species of animals, including dogs and cats, too. But there are many uses for ultrasound.
There are several types of imaging available. When people need their insides looked at, human medicine relies on CT (CAT) scans, MRIs, radiography and ultrasound. We’re asked to hold still and do what the doctors and nurses ask of us while we’re getting these diagnostics performed. However, we can’t ask our pets to hold completely still or to breathe at the exact times. So, to use CT or MRI in our companion animals, we need to anesthetize them, which adds a lot to the cost as well as some to the risk of the procedure.
Often pet owners seek safer, lower-cost diagnostics. That’s where ultrasound comes in. Ultrasound in veterinary medicine has been growing as a far less invasive, more economical diagnostic tool when we need to see inside the bodies of our pets. With ultrasound we can identify growths, see changes to the inner organs, identify bladder stones and other bladder abnormalities and diagnose pregnancy. We can even use ultrasound to safely sample fluids and tissues to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Cardiac ultrasound examinations, or echo cardiograms, are used to detect and monitor heart conditions.
Instead of using ultrasound only when our pets are ill, we can also use it as a screening test to try and identify diseases early on so they’re easier to deal with.
In older animals we can perform these scans looking for growths in the belly so that they can be removed or other treatments can be started before they place the animal’s life in danger. Things like tumors of the spleen, if detected early, are surgically removable. Early intervention increases the likelihood of treatment success and longer life for your companion which is why screening tests for senior pets is a good idea.
One disease that can be detected early by ultrasonic examination is Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). Some cats, including Persians, Himalayans, American shorthairs, ragdolls and Scottish folds, can have a genetic abnormality that predisposes them to PKD, a condition that causes pockets of fluid to grow in the kidneys, and rarely in the liver and pancreas. These cysts can unfortunately grow large enough to cause kidney failure. Genetic tests are available to check, however ultrasound can also be used to screen those cats to determine those at risk. As of this time there isn’t a treatment for PKD. However, knowing to watch out for kidney failure in the future can mean starting therapy for kidney disease sooner and keeping your kitty more comfortable longer.
If you have any questions about the use of ultrasound on your pet, please give us a call or schedule an appointment for a screening test.