It could happen that at some point of time in your dog's life, your veterinarian may perform a physical examination of your dog and then suggest a dog ultrasound procedure so to confirm or rule out a possible medical condition. An ultrasound (often referred to as sonogram) is a non- invasive, non-painful procedure that allows the veterinarian to take a look at internal organs. If your vet wants your dog to have an ultrasound done, you may be wondering about what is going to happen exactly, and perhaps, you may also be wondering how much a dog ultrasound costs.
A Closer Look
Did you know that your dog's internal organs can be easily evaluated thanks to an ultrasound? It all happens courtesy of the sound waves emitted by an ultrasound machine that allows internal organs to become visible.
The veterinarian therefore, will be able to see the organ's shape, size, density and position on a screen so that any abnormalities will be evident.
A great advantage of ultrasound machines is the fact that veterinarians may be also able to see how the organ is also functioning in real time.
For instance, an ultrasound of the heart (better known as an echo-cardiogram) will allow the veterinarian to visualize the chambers and valves of the heart in action, as they are happening. It is a great diagnostic test, therefore for various heart related conditions such as heart murmurs.
Uses for Dog Ultrasound
When is a dog ultrasound procedure suggested? An abdominal ultrasound is often prescribed for dogs who are exhibiting symptoms of gastro-intestinal distress such as vomiting and diarrhea. It can also turn helpful in the evaluation of cysts and tumors and cancer staging.
As mentioned, it can be used to visualize the chambers of the heart and it may also be helpful to evaluate the health of the dog's urinary system (bladder) and reproductive organs (prostate, uterus). Other organs commonly visualized through an ultrasound include the liver, spleen, kidneys, and intestines.
While a dog ultrasound may be helpful for the diagnosis of several conditions, it may not be ideal for others. For instance, the ultrasound waves are blocked by bones, and therefore, the ultrasound is unable to pass through the dog's skull to visualize the brain or spinal cord.
Ultrasound for Pregnancy
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An abdominal ultrasound is also capable of ruling out or confirming a dog's pregnancy. Typically, an ultrasound can determine dog pregnancy as early as 21 to 23 days and that is when the heartbeats can be detected; however, if the ultrasound is not examined by a veterinary radiologist at such an early stage, there may be chances that the presence of puppies may be missed.
Also, even though an ultrasound may help determine whether a dog is pregnant or not, it's important to consider that an ultrasound is not very accurate in determining the actual number of puppies mother dog is expecting.
If you want to know the exact number of puppies, your best bet is to have an x-ray done around day 54 or so, when the puppy's skeletons have mineralized, transforming from cartilage to bone. The x-ray at this stage can give you an exact count of the pups by looking at the number of the skeletons.
What Happens Exactly
In order to perform an ultrasound, the dog must be prepped. Hair will be shaved to prevent it from blocking the waves. A special gel is then applied to the area. After ward, a hand held probe is placed on the skin and moved about so to deliver images of the internal organs on a special computer screen. The whole procedure typically lasts between 20 to 60 minutes.
Many dog owners worry on whether the dog will require anesthesia during the procedure. Fortunately, in most cases, anesthesia is not needed, unless the veterinarian has determined that biopsies need to be taken. An ultrasound is a painless procedure and most dogs don't have problems with it. Only a few particularly fearful dogs may require a sedative.
Cost of Dog Ultrasound
As seen, the dog ultrasound procedure is quite effective in delivering information and helping in diagnostics; however, it may be quite costly, averaging between $300 and $500 dollars. The upper end is often the price to expect when having the ultrasound done by a specialist (a board-certified radiologist).
However, an ultrasound may be well worth the price because it could reveal an underlying condition that could not be detected with x-rays only.
Not all veterinary clinics perform ultrasounds. This is mostly attributed to the fact that such equipment requires space (even though there are more and more portable ultrasounds now) and also specialized skills. Not to mention the fact, that such equipment may be quite costly.
University of Illinois: Ultrasound FAQS