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Ultrasounds for Dogs

Canine ultrasounds play a crucial role in helping vets diagnose various health conditions in dogs. And when diagnosed early, these conditions can be treated more effectively, leading to better outcomes for the dogs. Today, our Seattle vets explain ultrasounds and the role they play in veterinary medicine. 

What is an ultrasound?

Ultrasounds for dogs are a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that uses sound waves to create images of the internal organs and structures within a dog's body. It helps veterinarians to visualize and assess the health of organs, such as the heart, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system.

Ultrasounds work by using these high-frequency sound waves we mentioned to bounce off internal organs and tissues to create images. They can detect various conditions, such as pregnancy, tumors, organ abnormalities, and fluid accumulation.

Because ultrasounds don't use any radiation, they are considered very safe, even for pregnant dogs.

Why might my dog need an ultrasound?

Below, we'll list some of the reasons why your dog may benefit from an ultrasound.


This is one of the most common reasons why a dog may need an ultrasound. Ultrasounds can help determine the number of puppies and their size. They can also help ensure a healthy pregnancy via monitoring.

Signs your dog might be pregnant include changes in appetite, weight gain, nipple enlargement, and behavioral changes such as nesting or increased affection.

Detecting Foreign Objects

Ultrasounds allow veterinarians to identify and locate foreign objects, such as swallowed toys or bones, which may not be easily detectable through physical examination alone. Additionally, ultrasounds can help assess the extent of any potential damage caused by the foreign object.

Signs your dog may have swallowed something they shouldn't have include vomiting, gagging, drooling excessively, refusing to eat, or experiencing abdominal pain.

Heart Conditions

Called an echocardiogram in this case, these images allow veterinarians to assess the structure and function of the heart, helping them detect any abnormalities or conditions that may be present. They can provide valuable information about blood flow and identify any potential issues with the heart valves or chambers.

Signs that your dog may have a heart condition include coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and a decreased tolerance for exercise.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

If your veterinarian finds something to be concerned about with your dog's blood or urine test results, they may order an abdominal ultrasound. These ultrasounds allow for the visualization of the internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys, spleen, lymph nodes, and urinary bladder to determine the cause of the abnormalities.

Signs your dog may need an abdominal ultrasound also include unexplained weight loss, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, and changes in appetite.


Though slightly less common, ultrasounds can still be used to detect tumors. These images can provide valuable information about the size, location, and characteristics of the tumor, helping doctors determine the best course of treatment.

Although signs may vary depending on the size and location, some general symptoms of a tumor include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, swelling, and abnormal bleeding.

How can I prepare for my dog's ultrasound?

Fasting your dog before an ultrasound is usually recommended to ensure a clear image of the organs. It is advised to withhold food for at least 8-12 hours prior to the procedure. Additionally, avoiding excessive exercise can help prevent any potential complications during the ultrasound examination. 

Your dog will need to be calm and relaxed for the examination. While some dogs will remain still and cooperative, many others may require sedation. This is especially true for most young dogs and those who are anxious or have difficulty staying calm in unfamiliar environments. Veterinarians can carefully assess each puppy or dog's behavior and decide if sedation is necessary to ensure a successful and stress-free ultrasound examination.

Finally, it’s important to inform the veterinarian—especially if the ultrasound is being done outside your primary veterinarian’s office—about any medications that your dog is currently taking. They may affect the ultrasound results or interact with sedation. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding dogs. For an accurate diagnosis of your dog's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your veterinarian suggested that your dog could benefit from an ultrasound? Contact our Seattle vets today to schedule an appointment for your dog.

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