What’s the topic for today?

I’m going to talk about the use of ultrasound scanning of cats and dogs

Is that the same procedure as when a human has an ultrasound scan?
Yes just the same really. In fact the ultrasound scanner we have at the Vet centre is from the Wairau hospital and it used to be used for scanning humans.

What is the difference between an ukltrasound scan and having an x-ray?
An xray involves passing xrays right through the body and we detect what comes out the other side. An ultrasound scan involves firing sound waves at the body. These soundwaves bounce back off the organs and we detect the sound that is reflected back to the surface.

Which technique is the most useful?
They both have their advantages. Xrays are great for looking at dense objects like bones whereas ultrasound is great for looking at soft tissues like the organs

Tell us a little about what you use ultrasound scanners for?
Probably the commonest use is for pregnancy diagnosis and monitoring of pregnancy to ensure the foetus is still alive. But there are many more uses than that.

Tell us some more
We use ultrasound a lot for examining the organs like the liver, spleen, kidneys. We assess these organs for tumours, cancer and other disease process. We can also use the scanner to help us take samples from these organs using a needle. Another use is to detect bladder stones, some of which don’t show up on xrays.

Can you only use ultrasound on the abdomen?
No ultrasound is great for checking out the heart too. An xray can only show what size the heart is but an ultrasound scan actually looks at the function of the heart as well as its structure?

What exactly can you see?
We can see the heart valves opening and closing and see the change in thickness of the heart wall as it contracts and relaxes. We can even watch the flow of blood through the heart and blood vessels.

Can all ultrasound scanners do this?
No not at all. You need one with a colour Doppler capability This shows the blood flow in different colours depending on the direction of flow.  We are very lucky to have a colour Doppler ultrasound machine at the Vet Centre.

Don’t all vets have this sort of machine?
Many will have a basic model that is capable of pregnancy testing but only a few have one with colour Doppler. It used to be that pets needed to be referred to Nelson for this sort of quality of ultrasound scanning but we can offer this in Blenheim.

Well that sounds like good news if it avoids having to travel to Nelson.
It’s good news for the pet too as they are often sick and unlikely to enjoy the long journey