Skip to Main Content

Everything You Need to Know About Ultrasounds for Your Cat or Dog

Everything You Need to Know About Ultrasounds for Your Cat or Dog

Your vet has recommended that your cat or dog have an ultrasound. What is it, and how can it help your pet? Our Rock Hill Emergency and Specialty Vets explain. 

What is an ultrasound?

Seasoned pet owners know their four-legged friends can easily get into things they shouldn’t, or develop tumors that require treatment. Ultrasounds transmit sound waves into your pet’s body to create an image of a specific part of the body.

This non-invasive technology can also be used to diagnose hemoabdomen and pericardial effusion (blood in the abdomen and around the heart).

Why would my pet need an ultrasound?

An ultrasound can help us see the architecture of your pet’s organs so we can find and identify objects.

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Rock Hill, we use this and other diagnostic tools to provide a proper diagnosis of your pet’s medical issues, so effective treatment can be provided.

Using this tool, soft tissue masses can be distinguished from fluid or foreign bodies - a task that may be difficult to accomplish with a digital x-ray. The sound waves generated from the ultrasound are not painful or harmful to your dog or cat.

Here are specific examples of conditions that may require an ultrasound:

Abnormal Urine or Blood Test Results

If abnormalities are found in your pet’s urine or blood tests, your vet may recommend an abdominal ultrasound to help visualize the internal organs, such as urinary bladder, liver, spleen, kidneys, lymph nodes or other areas to determine what’s causing the abnormalities.

Heart Conditions

If your cat or dog has a heart condition, your veterinarian may recommend an echocardiogram to help determine whether your pet will need heart medication.

Examination of Soft Tissues

We can examine almost all soft tissues in the body with an ultrasound to evaluate:

  • Tendons
  • Thyroid glands
  • Eyes
  • Fetal viability and development
  • Ligaments

If a veterinarian discovers abnormal tissue during an ultrasound, they may be able to collect tissue samples using the ultrasound.

How are samples collected?

We typically use these methods to collect samples:

  • Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration
  • Tru-Cut biopsies

With these methods, your dog will sometimes be sedated. Using ultrasound imaging, we can perform biopsies in a less invasive fashion than surgery would allow.

Types of Ultrasounds

These are two types of ultrasounds your vet may perform:


Echocardiograms are also known as cardiac ultrasounds. These are detailed ultrasounds that allow us to closely examine the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac to determine whether the heart is working properly. It can also help reveal the problem if there is a malfunction in the heart.

Echocardiograms are typically painless, but require numerous calculations and measurements. Your pet may need one if he or she was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur or if there are signs of heart disease.

Emergency Ultrasounds

In an emergency situation, we would typically focus the ultrasound on the chest and abdomen to quickly determine whether your cat or dog has serious internal hemorrhaging (bleeding) or pneumothorax (a condition in which air or gas collects in the space around the lungs). This can help us diagnose the problem quickly and plan effective treatment.

How should I prepare for a veterinary ultrasound?

Your vet can tell you what you should do to prepare for the ultrasound. You may need to withhold food and water for 8 to 12 hours, specifically for abdominal ultrasounds.

Your veterinarian will shave the area to be examined so clear images can be captured. While most pets will hold still during the ultrasound, some will require sedation.

Do you have questions about your upcoming ultrasound, or our imaging capabilities at Carolina Veterinary Specialists? Our Rock Hill vets are here to diagnose and treat your pet, and address your questions and concerns. If your pet has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition that requires specialty veterinary care, ask your vet for a referral to our team of veterinary specialists.

Vet Care for Rock Hill Pets

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Rock Hill, accepts new patients to our specialty services by referral only. Our emergency service welcomes all patients.

Contact Us

(803) 909-8300 Contact