Ask the Vet with Jennifer Brisson, DVM

Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital, Woburn

QuestionMy dog has recently been losing weight. My vet performed blood tests and x-rays on her and is now recommending an ultrasound? Why does she need this test? And why are they sending us to a referral hospital for the ultrasound instead of doing it at the local hospital?

AnswerWhen an older pet is seen by her regular vet for a non-specific issue such as weight loss, the first step is often to perform routine blood work (including a complete blood count and a chemistry profile) and take x-rays. This allows for measurement of the red and white blood cells, as well as evaluation of the liver enzymes, kidney values, and electrolytes. X-rays are performed to assess the size and shape of the internal organs. Sometimes these tests reveal the source of the problem, sometimes they don’t. An ultrasound can provide additional, much needed information in that it allows not only evaluation of size and shape of the organs, it allows for internal tissue evaluation and provides a window into the organ itself. For example, a spleen may look normal on an x-ray, but appear nodular on an ultrasound. This can be a sign of cancer or a response to anemia. Alternatively, the intestine may appear normal on an x-ray, but show evidence of diffuse wall thickening on an ultrasound. This finding can be seen with enteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, or intestinal cancer (lymphoma). Having the ultrasound performed by a board-certified radiologist, usually at a specialty or referral hospital, ensures that the exam is performed by an individual with intensive training and is an expert in the field of diagnostic imaging.

Jennifer Brisson DMVAbout the Vet:

Dr. Jennifer Brisson practices at Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital in Woburn, MA. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and attended veterinary school at Tufts. Dr. Brisson completed her DVM in 2004. She is board certified with the American College of Veterinary Radiology.

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