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Ultrasound Examinations and Scans in Dogs

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Ultrasound exams are common in veterinary medicine and can help diagnose various ailments in dogs as well as confirm pregnancies.
  • The procedure involves using a probe and gel to transmit high-frequency sound waves that create an image on a screen.
  • Ultrasound scans can be used to look at a dog's abdominal organs, including the heart, to detect tumors, cysts, bladder or kidney stones, organ abnormalities and fluid issues.
  • Before an ultrasound scan, the dog should not eat or drink, and the procedure is generally safe, painless, and non-intrusive, with no risk associated with the procedure.
  • Ultrasound examination costs for dogs range from $300 to $500, and the procedure itself is relatively simple, not requiring anesthesia, with the results being instantaneous.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Monday 15 April 2019
Last updated on
Friday 16 June 2023
ultrasound scans for dogs
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Ultrasound examinations are a common veterinary procedure for dogs. This non-invasive technique uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of the dog’s body. It can be performed for various reasons, such as checking for pregnancy, examining organs, or detecting abnormalities.

As a dog owner, you might wonder how this procedure works and what to expect if your dog needs one. This guide aims to provide you with information about ultrasound scans for dogs. We will explain how they work, why they’re used, and answer some common questions you may have.

How Do Ultrasound Scans Work For Dogs?

An ultrasound examination in dogs is similar to that in humans. It’s a safe and painless diagnostic tool that veterinarians use to look at internal body structures. This tool is called ultrasonography or an ultrasound.

During an ultrasound examination, the veterinarian uses a wand, also known as a probe, with the assistance of a gel. The gel is applied to the dog’s skin and helps transmit the sound waves from the probe into the body.

The probe collects the sound waves that bounce back from the body and returns them as echos. These echos create an image on a screen that displays the internal body structures under examination. Veterinarians use this image to diagnose different ailments in dogs and to confirm pregnancies.

What Are Ultrasound Examinations Used For?

There are a number of different reasons why a trusted veterinarian might request to do an abdominal ultrasound scan on your dog. Don’t be afraid to talk to your veterinarian about the use cases of the procedure and specifically what he or she might be looking for.

Here are some typical use cases.


Just as ultrasounds are used in humans, the procedure was first—and is still used—as a pregnancy monitoring tool. An ultrasound examination in dogs can tell the veterinarian if the dog is pregnant, as well as to determine the heartbeats of the puppies.

Ultrasound examination is not necessarily accurate, however, in determining the number of puppies and the size of the litter.

Organ-Specific Scans

In addition to detecting pregnancy, ultrasound scans for dogs can also show other organs to help veterinarians with a diagnosis. Ultrasounds can be used to look at a dog’s abdominal organs like the liver, kidney, bladder, gallbladder and lymph nodes.

The procedure can also show the thyroid and parathyroid. According to Banfield Pet Hospital, looking at these organs using ultrasound scanning can help a veterinarian diagnose tumors and cysts, bladder or kidney stones, organ abnormalities, fluid issues, and more.


It’s also very common for veterinarians to use an ultrasound to examine the heart, which is called echocardiography.

This ultrasound can help measure the thickness of the heart walls, the size of the chambers, and the motion of the other heart structures. Echocardiography can help a veterinarian diagnose a heart condition and determine how the heart is functioning.

Ultrasound Procedure in Dogs

An ultrasound examination in dogs is safe, quick, and simple. Once your veterinarian has made the appointment for your dog, they will give you specific instructions to follow. If you have any questions about the procedure, feel free to ask them for a leaflet or print out containing all the information you need to know.

Before an Ultrasound Scan

Before the procedure, you’ll want to avoid letting your dog eat or drink anything—an empty stomach will allow your veterinarian to get the best image.

Once you get to the appointment, the staff will take your dog into the procedure room. They will shave the area where the veterinarian will be putting the ultrasound probe. This is done to allow the probe to be placed directly on the skin. This will give your veterinarian the clearest and most accurate image.

After shaving the area, the veterinary staff will use the gel and the probe to scan your dog’s internal organs. Your veterinarian will use the image on the screen to diagnose any issue. In some cases, the results may need to be sent to a specialist, like a veterinary radiologist, for review. If this occurs, it may take some time for the specialist’s review to come back.

From beginning to end, an ultrasound scan procedure should only take about 30-60 minutes. Your veterinarian will be able to discuss results, possible further tests, and what to expect afterward with you when the procedure is complete.

canine ultrasound radiography
Only a veterinary radiologist will be able to accurately analyze a canine echocardiography image. (credits: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Focused Ultrasound Techniques for the Small Animal Practitioner, Wiley ©2014)

Follow Up After an Ultrasound Scan for Dogs

After completing the procedure, your veterinarian will review the results and check for any issues. They will then discuss the results with you, including any relevant diagnoses and treatment options available.

If necessary, your veterinarian will consult with a specialist. If any follow-up tests are required, they will discuss these with you, along with the next steps for those procedures. Once completed, your dog should be ready to return home with you.

After returning home, there are generally no restrictions on your dog’s food, drink, or activity. However, depending on your dog’s personality and age, they may be tired or worn out after the experience.

Common Questions about Ultrasound Examinations for Dogs

As a dog owner, it’s only natural to have questions about a medical procedure that your dog will be going through. These are some of the most common questions owners have about ultrasound scans for dogs.

Don’t hesitate, however, to ask your veterinarian any questions you may have that are specific to your dog and discuss what to expect before, during, and after, with them.

How do you prepare a dog for an ultrasound examination?

Firstly, you want to prevent your dog from eating or drinking before the exam, so that the veterinarian can better see your dog’s internal organs, unobstructed.

Secondly, if your dog takes medication, ask your veterinarian if you need to change or adjust the schedule based on the procedure.

Finally, the best way to prepare your dog for an ultrasound exam is to talk to your veterinarian about what to expect, especially as it pertains to your specific dog.

Although you may be feeling nervous about the procedure, try your best to remain calm, as your dog may pick up on your emotions. If you’re calm, your dog will be less anxious as well.

Do Ultrasound Scans For Dogs Require Anesthesia?

Abdominal ultrasound scans do not require anesthesia. One of the benefits of ultrasounds, in fact, is that they’re simple and noninvasive.

In very rare cases, anesthesia or sedation may be required for frighteneddogs, in order to get a sufficient picture from the procedure. Your veterinarian will discuss this with you if it becomes necessary.

The only other instance where anesthesia is necessary is if your veterinarian wishes to take a biopsy. A tissue biopsy is taken by inserting a small needle or instrument into the area and withdrawing the tissue. To ensure this process goes smoothly and your dog remains still, your veterinarian may want to use anesthesia. In this case, your veterinarian will discuss what you need to do and will break down the full process concerning anesthesia with you ahead of time, including extra costs.

What are the different types of ultrasounds?

Generally, types of ultrasound can vary based on the image produced.

The most common type of ultrasound in veterinary medicine is the B-mode ultrasound, also called the 2-dimensional imaging ultrasound. This ultrasound gives a two-dimensional picture of the organ and is used to detect pregnancy and examine the various structures as discussed above.

The other type of ultrasound is called an M-mode ultrasound. This, actually is a type of B-mode, in which a tracing of the motion of the organ is being displayed on the screen. In echocardiography, M-mode ultrasounds and B-modes are used together to examine the heart.

Additionally, a specialized type of ultrasound called Doppler ultrasound is also used when looking at the heart. This ultrasound measures the directions and speed of blood flow and blood vessels.

How Long Do Dog Ultrasound Scan Results Take?

Since ultrasound exams create an image while the procedure is happening, the results are instantaneous. As your veterinarian observes the image, it may take them a few minutes to reflect on the results. They will offer insight or a diagnosis based on the observations right away.

At times, they may prefer to consult with another veterinarian and in some cases, ultrasound results are sent to a specialist for review. In this case, it may take some time for the specialist to review and offer thoughts.

How Much Do Ultrasound Examinations in Dogs Cost?

Ultrasound examination costs for dogs range from $300 to $500. Prices can be affected by where you live, what kind of facility you bring your dog to, and your specific veterinarian.

The cost, although seemingly high, actually falls in the midrange for diagnostic image testing prices. To compare, canine x-rays usually falls in a range in the lower hundreds of dollars, while an MRI can cost up to a few thousand dollars.

What Are the Dangers of Ultrasound Scans in Dogs?

Since ultrasound scans do not use radiation and operate using sound waves, there is no risk associated with the procedure. One of the benefits of ultrasound examinations in dogs is there are no dangers.

Although your dog may be nervous, there is nothing involved in the actual procedure that can harm him. Ultrasounds are safe, relatively easy, non-intrusive, and because of their capabilities, ultimately make excellent diagnostic tools.

What Are the Differences Between X-Rays and Ultrasound Scans?

Whereas an ultrasound examination uses sound waves to produce an image of internal body structures, an X-Ray uses low levels of radiation to capture an image on film.

An X-Ray shows the size and shape of organs, and is often used to look for breaks and fractures in bone. Ultrasounds, as Banfield Pet Hospital writes, “provides a complete internal view of the architecture of the organs.”

As mentioned above, ultrasounds generally run at a higher cost than X-Rays, although both are valid and useful diagnostic tools.

At the end of the day, an ultrasound scan for dogs is a non-invasive, simple procedure used by veterinarians as a diagnostic tool. The ultrasound uses sound waves to produce an image of your dog’s internal body structures. Your veterinarian can analyze this image to determine if there are any issues. The procedure itself is relatively simple and your dog should have no problem sitting through an ultrasound.

If your dog needs to have an ultrasound examination, worry not, your veterinarian is there to answer all your questions and help you through the process.

About The Author – James Woller is a long-time dog enthusiast, and owner of Release the Hounds and Jet Pet Resort, professional dog walking and boarding companies in Vancouver, Canada. On his days off from running his companies, he enjoys learning and writing about topics that are of interest to caring pet owners.

3 comments on “Ultrasound Examinations and Scans in Dogs”

  1. Conrad O'Connor

    It’s good that you point out that an ultrasound can be used to detect illnesses in your pet. My dog has been acting strange lately, so I’m considering taking him to a vet to get an ultrasound. I’m going to look for a good veterinary clinic in my area that does ultrasounds for pets.

  2. Afton Jackson

    We recently got a new pet dog named Scruffles and we want to make sure he stays with us for as long as possible. It really interested me when you stated that dogs can also receive ultrasound scans for their specific organs just like humans can because I’ve heard a lot of stories from dog owners about being on the lookout for specific sicknesses that can make it difficult to keep them around. I’ll be sure to look for any vet clinics that I can regularly take Scruffles to and maybe get him scanned one day. Thank you for your article!

  3. Amartya Sen

    Need complete n specific details on XRay and Ultrasound machines for Dogs.

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