Sometimes when your cat is ill, a physical examination by a veterinarian is not enough to determine what may ail your feline friend. In this case, a veterinarian may want to conduct an ultrasound--a safe, non-invasive procedure used to evaluate internal organs. An ultrasound is often used to confirm pregnancy, but can also detect cancers, tumors and other abnormal tissues in your cat’s body.
The cost of an ultrasound depends on the veterinarian, the extent of the procedure, and whether it is done in a veterinary office or an animal hospital. The costs vary from $100 to $500, as of 2010. The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine suggests calling several of your local veterinarians and asking for price estimates.
All ultrasounds are considered diagnostic ultrasounds, or sonograms that render a diagnosis. Diagnostic ultrasounds involve a special machine that penetrates the tissue with high-frequency sound waves to form images of tissues within the body. A computer in the machine determines the speed and strength of the sound waves and from them constructs images of the tissue being studied. It is a safe and painless procedure, with no short- or long-term effects associated with its proper use.
An abdominal ultrasound is one of the most common tests your veterinarian might recommend, according to Vet Info.com. During an abdominal ultrasound, the veterinarian examines your cat’s liver, gall bladder, spleen, kidneys, bladder, prostate, uterus, ovaries, adrenal glands, stomach, and intestines. This can help the vet to pinpoint the cause of common pet health issues such as vomiting, elevated kidney or liver values on blood tests, abnormal urination, unexplained weight loss, and much more, according to Vet Confidential.com. Cats suffering from excessive vomiting, diarrhea, urinating blood or straining to urinate are good candidates for an abdominal ultrasound. Most veterinarians complete an x-ray procedure prior to suggesting an ultrasound, but your veterinarian may also recommend an abdominal ultrasound if he suspects an issue with your cat’s spleen, liver, or pancreas after completing a physical examination.
A cardiac ultrasound, known as an echocardiogram, or an “echo,” detects diseases of the heart. It measures the heart’s wall thicknesses and determines the size of its chambers. It can also detect motion so that an assessment can be made of the ability of the heart to move blood, and the valves can be seen to determine if they are functioning properly.
An ultrasound of the musculoskeletal system provides images of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and soft tissue. This type of ultrasound, used primarily in larger animals, is done when it's believed your cat is suffering from musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, joint disease, intervertebral disc disease, joint disease, hip dysplasia and tendonitis.
Ultrasounds given to a female feline can confirm pregnancy; however, it is useful in many other situations. When the exact nature of your cat’s health problem cannot be determined, a veterinarian sometimes uses an ultrasound to help him find the exact location of the problematic area. An ultrasound examines the internal organs and finds any cancers, abscesses, tumors or other abnormal tissues in those areas. The procedure also reveals any fluid present in your cat’s body, particularly fluid that shouldn’t be there. The results are usually available immediately.
Most often, an ultrasound is used to detect cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, gastro-intestinal disease, bladder problems, unexplained weight loss, heart murmurs and other cardiac problems.
An ultrasound also may be used to help guide a biopsy instrument to allow a portion of the tissue to be removed for disease diagnosis without having to perform actual surgery. Many ultrasound-guided biopsies can be done with just a local anesthetic.
When it’s believed your cat is suffering from an ailment that cannot be detected with a routine examination, a veterinarian may sometimes opt to conduct an ultrasound in cases where the next step would often be exploratory surgery.
To prepare for an ultrasound, your cat should not eat for 12 hours, but water should be available as the urinary bladder is best visualized if it's full of urine. Do not let your cat urinate within three to six hours of the ultrasound, if possible. Most cats do not require sedation or anesthesia for the procedure; however, some cats resent lying on their sides, and may require mild sedation to allow the diagnostic procedure, according to Pet Place.com.
Who conducts an ultrasound
Large veterinary colleges have used ultrasounds for years, but due to the expense of the specialized equipment, it's not widely available to the average general practitioner, according to Pet Style. Today, most large cities now have at least one veterinarian who has an interest in diagnostic ultrasound and the equipment to conduct the examination.
If your cat requires an ultrasound, ensure that the person performing the procedure has adequate training to do so because there are no standards currently in place in the veterinary profession, according to Vet Confidential.com. An inadequate ultrasound can lead to misdiagnosis, which can be very dangerous for your cat.
The best way to protect your cat is to have the ultrasound done by a board-certified veterinary radiologist, if possible. You can find a certified pet radiologist on the American College of Veterinary Registry website. If you can’t find a veterinary radiologist in your area, a veterinary internal medicine specialist is another good choice. To find a specialist in your area, visit the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and use its Map of ACVR Diplomates (board-certified radiologists).