How To Prep a Cat or Dog for Veterinary Ultrasound

Cat having ultrasound scan in vet office.

Veterinary ultrasound can help detect a wide variety of pet health concerns. However, they may cause more questions than answers if a pet is not properly prepped for the procedure. Correct patient preparation for ultrasound scanning is crucial because improper preparation can result in imaging errors known as artifacts.  Veterinarians should follow a standard preparation checklist to ready their cat or dog patient for an ultrasound. 

Whether you’ve just bought an ultrasound for your clinic and haven’t practiced since you were in school, or you’re just looking for some quick new tips, read this guide to learn the steps you need to take to prep a cat or dog for a veterinary ultrasound

Steps To Take To Prepare a Cat or Dog for Ultrasound

Some common reasons for a pet to need an ultrasound may include:

  • Heart conditions
  • Thyroid problems
  • Bladder issues
  • Bowel disease
  • Pet pregnancy
  • Cancers
  • Foreign objects

Ultrasound is also helpful in guiding or collecting medical samples like biopsies or needle aspiration procedures. 

These steps will you be able to better prepare your patients for an ultrasound procedure.

#1: Inform your client of the preparations they need to take at home.

Ultrasound preparation begins at home, about 12 hours prior to the scheduled procedure. Give your clients a list of instructions to follow to help you obtain the most accurate ultrasound reading.  These instructions must include: 

  • Pets should not eat for 12 hours prior to the procedure. Undigested food in the stomach can block sound waves, making it difficult for you as the technician to get a clear picture.

  • Pets can continue to drink water and stay hydrated before their ultrasound. 

  • Monitor anxiety levels. Encourage your client to monitor their pet as they approach the appointment and share any concerns about their pet’s anxiety or pain levels upon arrival.  

Make yourself available to your clients for any questions. In addition to sharing concerns about anxiety or pain, pet owners should also feel comfortable talking openly about any other concerns they might have before, during, and after the ultrasound. 

#2: Remove hair or fur. 

Patients undergoing an ultrasound procedure must be shaved in order to obtain an accurate image. Fur or hair can trap air around the skin and create a hypoechoic shadow, thereby preventing good transmission of the ultrasound waves into the patient.

It is better to shave a larger area than an area that is too small.  Be sure to communicate the amount of fur that will need to be shaved with the pet owner prior to removal. 

#3: Cleanse the patient’s skin. 

After the patient has been shaved in the necessary area, you will need to clean its skin to remove any grease or grime.  Gently use a small amount of dilute chlorhexidine (e.g. Hibiscrub), isopropyl alcohol (spirit) or mild shampoo on the area and wipe away with water. 

#4: Apply transmission gel. 

Apply transmission gel to the prepped skin in the direction of fur growth. Smooth the gel across the skin the avoid any air bubbles in the gel layer, then wait 5 minutes for the gel to absorb into the skin. The longer you wait for the gel to absorb, the better your resulting image quality will be during the scan. 

After following these preparation instructions, you will be ready to proceed with your ultrasound scan and procedure.  It is important not to perform an ultrasound without proper education and training. For more information on ultrasound preparation and technique, consider attending a seminar or requesting onsite training from a professional.  

Sonography Equipment and Veterinary Supplies

Veterinarians who require new ultrasound equipment can call Choice Medical Systems in South Pasadena, Florida, at (727) 592-5668. Contact us for more information on ultrasound equipment for cats and dogs or ultrasound training.