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Ultrasound or Radiographs (x-rays) – What’s The Difference?

Feb 21, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

Unlike radiographs, ultrasound uses sound waves to generate a picture of the internal organs. Ultrasound is completely safe and painless and does not require anesthesia or sedation in most cases.

Ultrasound may be recommended after a physical examination, blood test or x-ray indicates an underlying problem. Ultrasound is commonly used in both veterinary and human medicine for a wide variety of problems, including diseases of the liver, kidneys, bladder, stomach, intestines, pancreas, heart, and other organs. As with people, it can be used safely during pregnancy.

Ultrasound can “see” many things that can’t be seen on x-rays. For example, if there is fluid build-up in the chest or abdomen, the organs can’t be seen clearly on x-ray because fluid and tissue have the same density. However, they appear quite clearly on ultrasound, because we can see through the fluid. In addition, while x-rays are helpful to see the shapes and sizes of the internal organs, ultrasound can get a picture of the internal structure.

If an x-ray shows an enlarged heart, we can’t tell from the x-ray if the walls of the heart are thick with narrowed heart chambers (where the blood flows) or if the walls are thin and weak with big chambers or if there is fluid build-up between the heart and the sac that surrounds it. Ultrasound can readily give us this information, which is critical, as these scenarios represent different types of heart disease, with different prognoses and treatments.

Ultrasound is not effective at seeing through air or bone, so it does not replace x-rays but rather is complementary. In some cases both x-rays and ultrasound are needed in order to get a complete picture of what is going on with a patient.

Ultrasound equipment is specialized and quite expensive, so not all veterinary hospitals have an ultrasound machine. Many hospitals have specialists that come to perform the examinations. Other hospitals refer their patients to a hospital that can provide this level of care. In some cases of complex heart disease, evaluation by a veterinary cardiologist may be needed.

Due to the specialized nature of ultrasonic exam and evaluation, it is critical to have a veterinarian who is experienced in obtaining and reading ultrasound images to perform the examination, and make this information apply to each patient in a meaningful way in terms of prognosis and treatment recommendations.

What happens during an ultrasound?

The hair over the area to be evaluated will be shaved, as hair will interfere with the images. A gel (water soluble and safe) will be applied to the skin to help the sound waves generate a good picture. A transducer (similar in size and shape to a TV remote control) is placed on the patient’s skin and slowly moved around over the area to be examined. The ultrasound is computerized, so it can be used to accurately measure the tissues as needed. In addition, images can be stored electronically.

In order to perform a thorough exam, the patient needs to stay relatively still, though some wiggling is fine. Although some cats may be slightly anxious initially, most relax and remain calm once they realize that nothing painful is happening. For cats that are very anxious, your veterinarian may recommend a sedative.

What should I do to prepare for the ultrasound procedure?

Please do not feed your cat for 8-12 hours prior to the examination. Water is permitted. In the case of an abdominal ultrasound, an empty stomach allows for proper imaging of the area near the stomach. There are some diseases/situations where food should NOT be withheld; contact your veterinarian for specific instructions. If your cat is having an abdominal ultrasound, please try not to let your pet urinate for the 3 hours prior to your appointment. This will help get a better picture of the bladder.

What will the ultrasound tell us?

An ultrasound examination will provide a lot of information about your cat’s health. Together with the internist, we look at information from lab tests, x-rays, examinations and medical history to make medical recommendations.

  • A specific diagnosis: often ultrasound can provide us with a diagnosis (or a reason for your cat’s illness).
  • A Partial diagnosis: While ultrasound shows us the shapes and consistencies of the internal organs, it cannot see microscopic changes. This means that while an ultrasound examination can identify abnormal tissue, including growths, it cannot always determine if the tissue is cancerous or what type of cancer it is. For some patients, this information will affect how they are treated and a biopsy may be recommended. In some cases, this biopsy may be performed as an ultrasound guided needle sample under light anesthesia. In other cases, a surgical biopsy is needed.
  • No Diagnosis/ Disease Exclusion: For some patients, the organ changes are not visible enough to pinpoint the problem. We are able to exclude (or rule out) certain diseases, but are left with a list of possible diseases that are causing your cat’s illness. This can be both relieving and frustrating. We will discuss options for therapies based on the available information and will recommend the best path for additional testing to obtain a diagnosis if indicated and desired.

If you have additional questions about whether ultrasound or x-rays are appropriate for your cat, please contact your veterinarian.

Dr Diana Lafer

Dr. Diana Lafer founded Cats Limited in 1995. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Wesleyan University and her veterinary degree from Cornell University. Dr. Lafer has a cat (Sparky), and a dog (Lucy). She enjoys spending time with her daughters, horseback riding, skiing, hiking, participating in triathlons, and volunteering for the Lakeville Pony Club.

Cats Limited Hospital
1260 New Britain Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06110

Phone: (860) 561-9885
Email: cats@catslimited.com

Website: http://www.catslimited.com/
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Should I Go? Or, Should I stay?

Jan 25, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Winter is in full swing. It is the time to think about escape. Or for those cat lovers who live in warmer climes, a change of scenery to refresh and reenergize, often beckons.  As travel plans are being made, one important question often is: would our feline friend be better with their veterinarian, at home, in a boarding kennel, or traveling with us?

Just as no two cats are alike, no option is the right one for every cat.  Some general considerations are: how long will you  be gone, how old is your cat, and is yours a single or multiple cat household?  Then there are individual traits to consider.  How does your cat handle visitors?  Is there a secretive or elusive eater in the family?  If left at home would anyone be able to monitor this cat’s food intake?  How well does your cat travel?

The most common situation is where the cat must stay at home with a cat sitter, in a boarding facility or at a veterinary hospital.  For some of our felines, the question is easy.  Cats with medical needs, such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or frail health, should stay with your veterinarian so they will be monitored by skilled professionals.  After a cat has had a day or two to adapt to the environment, boarding time offers a good opportunity to have planned lab tests performed, such as a blood glucose or blood pressure measurement.  It is  frequently the easiest time to get a urine sample, if your doctor has requested one.

When young cats ( under 7-9 mos of age) are home alone, they can  get into trouble due to pent up energy with no one  home to entertain them.  Cords and knickknacks become toys with their attendant problems.  These cats are  best left in someone else’s care, such as a boarding facility.

For adult healthy cats ( 9 mos to 15 years), with proper planning, staying at home may be the best solution.  There are several strategies for making a cat’s time at  home alone successful.  Someone should visit your cat at least daily, and preferably twice daily to feed and clean  if your trip is more than two or three days.  Additional litter boxes should be provided –  at least one more than the normal number.  Caretakers may not be as fastidious as you are.  Their cycle of visits may not match your cat’s litter box usage pattern.  An extra litter box, or even two, will decrease the likelihood of accidents occurring.  Leave clear feeding instructions describing amounts to be fed with exact measurements, as opposed to rough guidelines ( e.g. one half cup not the more inexact handful).  Leave unwashed articles of your clothing for the cat to sleep on.  Put them in the cat’s usual sleeping places.  Being able to smell you will be reassuring to your cat.  If you are planning an extended time away, make arrangements for a sitter to spend an hour or so daily in your home to interact with your cat – especially if your cat is a social cat who likes company and play time.  A  tape recording of your voice played periodically may be comforting if your cat is particularly attached to you, or is shy around strangers.  If you are hiring a cat sitter, please check their references and schedule a visit to introduce the sitter to your cat to make sure you approve of the observed interaction.  If these arrangements are difficult or impossible, then your cat would most likely be best served by staying at at boarding facility.  Use  logic for choosing a boarding facility similar to that which you would have used to choose a cat sitter.  Ask your friends or your veterinarian for recommendations.  Be sure to visit and observe the facility ahead of time.

Sometimes  the best choice is for your cat to travel with you.  No matter how you are traveling, make sure your cat has some form of permanent identification to greatly increase the likelihood of you and your cat being reunited if your cat should escape.  Microchipping is the ideal method of identification.  Speak to your veterinarian about the quick and easy procedure.  As was mentioned above, an unwashed article of your clothing placed in the carrier will offer comfort.  A towel or blanket sprayed with Feliway, a calming pheromone, placed in the carrier one hour before use with your kitty placed  in the carrier 20 minutes before leaving helps to decrease travel anxiety.  Minimize motion sickness by not feeding your cat the day of the trip.  This will also decrease the probability of your cat urinating or defecating in the carrier while traveling. When you arrive at your destination, take your cat in the carrier into the room you’ll be staying in.  Get food, water, and a litter box ready, then let him out.  Place the carrier on the floor with the door open.  Your carrier can act be a place of security during your visit.  Generally speaking it is best to keep your cat in your room for the duration of your stay.  While it may seem like a small space, remember it is much larger than a boarding cage and your cat can easily familiarize himself with the new surroundings.

If you are traveling by air, first contact the individual airline to see what it requires to allow your cat to fly.   Ideally your cat will fly in the cabin with you.   Call the airline early to make the reservation.  Most airlines limit the number of pets that can fly in the cabin.  Your cat should wear a harness attached to a leash in the carrier. Unless the rule has been changed, cats are required to be out of their carrier during screening and a frightened cat can be difficult to restrain in your arms.  Many airlines will require a health certificate within a specific number of days prior to departure.  Most airlines require proof of  a current rabies vaccination.

If you are traveling by car, your cat should travel in a carrier and be secured in that carrier any time you exit or enter the vehicle.  If your trip is more than four hours, stop and offer water periodically and have a disposable litter box available.

There is no exact answer to the question: what is best for your cat when you travel? You know best the physical and emotional requirements of your feline family member.  Your veterinarian will be happy to consult with you about any specific questions

or concerns you might have.  Choose the option that will allow you to enjoy your vacation knowing that you have done your best to make sure your cat is healthy, happy, and safe.

Dr Kathleen Keefe Ternes

Dr. Kathleen Keefe Ternes grew up in western Massachusetts. She received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1974; a BS degree in 1978 and a DVM in 1979 from Michigan State University. Dr. Keefe Ternes returned home to New England in April 1980. In 1984, she achieved one of her professional goals by opening The Feline Hospital in Salem, MA. . Dr. Keefe Ternes, a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP), initially certified as a companion animal specialist in 1990. She became certified as a feline specialist in 2000 and recertified in 2010. Dr. Keefe Ternes is a member of AAFP, the AVMA, the MVMA, and her local organization, the Veterinary Association of the North Shore (VANS). Her involvement in organized medicine includes having been a past president of VANS and current member of the board of directors. She is also a case reviewer for the ABVP and recently joined the Feline Welfare Committee of the AAFP.

Dr. Keefe Ternes lives in Salem with her husband and two college age daughters. Her two senior cats Toby and Petunia keep her on her toes medically.

The Feline Hospital
81 Webb St
Salem, MA 01970

Phone: 978-744-8020
Email: thefelinehospital@gmail.com

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