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Ultrasound Examination in Cats

If your cat needs an ultrasound, you might feel worried. Our Torrance veterinarians share information and what to expect during the procedure.

Cats can be susceptible to various illnesses and conditions, such as tumors, cysts, or the ingestion of foreign objects that can result in internal blockages.

Ultrasounds are a diagnostic imaging technique that uses sound waves to create real-time images of the internal organs of your cat's body.

Veterinary ultrasounds are quick and non-invasive tests that can be used to diagnose and monitor a variety of internal organ problems in your pet. They are also useful for monitoring your pet's pregnancy.

Reasons Your Feline May Need An Ultrasound

At Harbor Animal Hospital, we have a veterinary diagnostic laboratory where our vets use ultrasounds to examine the structure of your cat's organs. This helps us identify blockages, tumors, or other medical problems your pet may have.

We aim to accurately diagnose our furry patients' medical issues using ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools, allowing us to offer the most effective treatment possible.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform these two types of ultrasounds:

Emergency Ultrasound

If your cat is distressed, the ultrasound will usually focus on the abdomen and chest to determine whether it is suffering from a serious internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or pneumothorax (a condition in which gas or air collects in the space surrounding the lungs). This will help us quickly diagnose the problem, and then we can devise an effective treatment plan.


Cardiac ultrasounds, also known as thorough scans, examine the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac. These scans help determine whether the heart is beating normally or if there are any irregularities. While echocardiograms are usually painless, they require multiple measurements and calculations. 

If your cat has recently been diagnosed with a heart murmur or is displaying signs of heart disease, they may be referred to a specialist for an echocardiogram. 

In cases where an organ displays abnormalities, an ultrasound-guided biopsy may be performed to obtain a tissue sample for further examination under a microscope. This biopsy often aids in making a diagnosis.

Conditions Which May Mean Your Cat Could Benefit From an Ultrasound

Heart Problems

If your cat has been diagnosed with a heart condition, your veterinarian may recommend a specialist for a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram. These tests can help assess the health and function of your pet's heart and look for anomalies.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

Your veterinarian may suggest an ultrasound if your cat's blood or urine tests show any abnormalities. An ultrasound can help your vet get a better picture of your pet's internal organs, such as the bladder, kidneys, lymph nodes, and more, which can assist in determining the underlying cause of the problem.

Diagnostic Imaging of Soft Tissue Injuries & Illness

Thanks to ultrasound imaging technology, almost all kinds of soft tissue can be examined in detail. Some of the most common areas examined using ultrasound include:

  • Eyes
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Fetal viability and development
  • Thyroid glands

If abnormal tissue is spotted during an ultrasound, the vet may also use the ultrasound to help collect tissue samples from the affected area.

Ultrasound-Assisted Tissue Collection & Biopsies

Samples are typically collected using these methods:

  • Tru-Cut biopsies
  • Ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration

If your vet will be performing an ultrasound-assisted tissue collection, your cat will likely be sedated. We can perform biopsies in a less invasive manner with ultrasounds than with surgeries.

How To Prepare Your Cat for Their Ultrasound

Different ultrasounds performed on your cat's body may require specific preparations. Consult your vet for specific guidelines on how to prepare your pet for the ultrasound.

For instance, certain ultrasounds, such as abdominal ultrasounds, may require you to deprive your pet of food and water for 8 to 12 hours before the procedure. This allows for a more thorough examination of the abdominal region. It is best not to let your cat to urinate for 3 to 6 hours before the procedure so that the bladder can be adequately assessed.

The area being examined will typically be shaved to ensure clear images can be obtained. While most cats remain still and cooperative during the ultrasound, some may require sedation to help them stay calm.

If biopsies are needed after the ultrasound, your cat will require a stronger sedative or anesthesia to help them relax and prevent complications. Your vet will inform you if this is necessary.

Instant Ultrasound Results For a Fast Diagnosis

Your veterinarians can perform an ultrasound in real-time, meaning they will receive the results immediately. Sometimes, the images obtained through ultrasound may need to be sent to a veterinary radiologist for examination, and in such cases, you may have to wait a few days before a final decision is made.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat scheduled for an ultrasound at Harbor Animal Hospital? Contact our Torrance vets today if you have questions about your cat's procedure.

New Patients Welcome

New Patients Welcome

Harbor Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Torrance companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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