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What is Abdominal Ultrasound?


 Abdominal ultrasound is a real-time diagnostic imaging tool to view soft tissues. It uses high-frequency sound waves to allow examination of all the major abdominal organs including:

the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, reproductive tract, adrenal glands, major vessels, lymph nodes, mesentery, and peritoneal space.


Abdominal ultrasounds can also be used to help us obtain samples of fluid or tissues in order to get a diagnosis of the problem.

Ultrasounds can also be used to check for early pregnancy (fetal heartbeats can be detected at day 25 of pregnancy). Litter size and fetal measurments cannot be accurately assessed therefore x-rays are often also done after day 45.

Reasons your vet may recommend abdominal ultrasound:

  Sometimes the veterinarian will find something specific during a pet’s physical exam, such as feeling fluid in the belly or chest, a mass, or abnormalities on lab work. An ultrasound can provide more insight into what is going on. 


Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, abnormal urination are common symptoms where an ultrasound may help determine the cause and guide treatment. 

How is this performed?

  Ultrasounds are typically done with the pet lying on its back, most often, under some level of sedation. The pet’s belly is shaved as hair interferes with the image quality. Alcohol and ultrasound gel is used to provide better conduction. The veterinarian holds a transducer or probe against the belly skin and takes many images, videos, and measurements of every organ. Ultrasounds are usually painless and often performed in a quiet, dark room. Most pets can safely undergo an ultrasound, regardless of medical concerns.


Adapted from Veterinary Partner, Jacqueline Brister, DVM; 01/30/2020

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