Iscan Veterinary Imaging

Iscan Veterinary Imaging
Newcastle, ON L1B 0A3


How Will Ultrasound Help My Pet?


Ultrasound is a safe, non-invasive, way for your veterinarian to see what is inside your pet’s body without doing surgery. This information has been provided to answer some questions you may have about ultrasonography.


Why Does My Pet Need An Ultrasound?


Your veterinarian may recommend an abdominal ultrasound if:

  1. Your pet has vomiting, diarrhea or a poor appetite
  2. There is unexplained weight loss
  3. Your pet has a painful abdomen
  4. Findings during your pet’s annual exam suggested that there may be a mass or other abnormality in the abdomen
  5. There are abnormalities on blood work, a urinalysis or radiographs
  6. There is an unexplained change in urinating habits or your pet’s behaviour
  7. There is fluid in the abdomen


Your veterinarian may recommend a cardiac or thoracic ultrasound if:

  1. Your pet has a new heart murmur
  2. Your pet’s heart murmur has suddenly worsened
  3. Your kitten or puppy has a heart murmur
  4. Your pet has a new cough +/- exercise intolerance
  5. Your pet is in need of anesthetic and he/she has a heart murmur
  6. There is evidence of fluid in the chest or the pericardium (the sac around the heart) on radiographs
  7. There is evidence of a mass in the chest on radiographs


Your veterinarian may also recommend ultrasound of your pet’s eye, thyroid, limbs, joints or a mass under the skin.


What Will The Ultrasound Tell Us?

The ultrasound exam will give us information about the size and shape, texture, blood supply and location of your pet’s internal organs and any masses. Your veterinarian will then have more information on which to plan the best course of diagnostics and treatments for your pet.

Using ultrasound guidance, we can take samples (aspirates or biopsies) of organs or masses that are not normal. This is very important information in diagnosing many diseases and in treating those diseases appropriately.

Ultrasound can often answer the question as to whether or not a pet should be treated with surgery or if medical treatment alone would be more beneficial. If surgery is needed, ultrasound can tell us how risky surgery may be and will help guide the surgeon to the areas of concern. 


When Should The Ultrasound Be Done?

When a sick pet is presented to the veterinary clinic, the first step is a physical exam. This is often followed by blood work, a urinalysis and possibly radiographs. Ultrasound is often the next step if further information is needed. Doing the ultrasound sooner rather than later will often decrease the length of time your pet is sick, and will save costs in the long run. With more information on the disease process your veterinarian can better develop an effective treatment plan.


Will My Pet Need To Be Shaved?

Yes. Ultrasound equipment sends and receives sound waves (echoes) to and from your pet’s organs. The strength and speed of the returning echoes creates the image we see. Air trapped between fur causes scattering of the echoes and decreases the quality of the image. This can lead to missed lesions and misdiagnosis. Clipping the fur allows a more accurate and thorough exam of the area in question.


Will My Pet Need To Be Fasted?

Yes. Food should be withheld for a minimum of 12 hr. Even a small treat can lead to gas in the stomach and this causes the same problem as air in the fur. Important lesions could be missed if the stomach is not empty.

Water should be offered as usual until the morning of the exam. Dogs should not be allowed to gulp large quantities of water within 4-6 hr of the exam as this will also fill the stomach with gas.


Will My Pet Need To Be Sedated?

Maybe. The majority of pets do not need sedation. However, some patients are painful or nervous and a light sedative with some pain medication will be of great benefit to them. While there are sonographers who promote their services by saying “anesthetic free ultrasounds” Dr. Cullen feels that doing an ultrasound without sedation and pain medication on a nervous or painful pet is inhumane. Your pet’s veterinarian is the best person to assess your pet’s condition and whether or not sedation or pain medication is needed. 

Very nervous or fractious patients may require a full general anaesthetic. This is very rare, but again it allows us to get as much useful information as possible without causing undue stress to your pet.

If your pet requires an aspirate or centesis (a small needle is inserted into an organ) sedation is required. If your pet requires a biopsy (a larger needle is inserted into an organ) your pet will require general anaesthetic. We do not want your pet moving during these procedures because movement will increase the risk of complications


How Long Will I Have to Wait For Results?

Not long. Once Dr. Cullen has completed the ultrasound study and her report, she will discuss the findings with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will then discuss the results with you when you pick your pet up.


Who Is Dr. Cullen?

Dr. Cullen graduated from the Atlantic Veterinary College in 1992 and has worked in the Durham region of Ontario since that time. She has been performing ultrasounds on dogs and cats since 2001. In 2007 she started training other veterinarians to do ultrasounds and has since taught not only across Canada, but also in Hong Kong. In 2013 Dr. Cullen completed the voluntary process of ultrasound certification with the International Veterinary Ultrasound Society ( She is also an Associate Editor on the Veterinary Information Network ( where she helps other veterinarians interpret their ultrasound exams.


What is The Benefit to Having a Veterinarian Perform the Ultrasound?

While non-veterinary sonographers can learn to perform an ultrasound exam on a dog or cat, only veterinarians can legally interpret an ultrasound. This is because it takes many years of education and experience to know how to relate a patient’s physical exam, lab results and x-rays to what is seen on the ultrasound.

When a veterinarian performs the ultrasound he/she can:

  • Examine your pet and review other test results.
  • Immediately interpret what is seen and the importance of each finding
  • Discuss the ultrasound results with your regular veterinarian the same day.
  • Make recommendations about further diagnostics, treatment or referral.

When performing biopsies and aspirates, veterinarians again have years of education and experience that allows us to best judge what the risks are for your pet. Not all disease conditions can be safely biopsied or aspirated. 

It’s important that the person performing the ultrasound, and especially any biopsies or aspirates, has a well grounded working knowledge of animal diseases and physiology.


Why is Ultrasound So Expensive?

The price of ultrasound for pets in Ontario has actually decreased significantly over the past few years as it’s become more readily available. The fees charged are necessary to cover the cost of equipment, continuing education (both very expensive) and travel costs.