The versatility of ultrasound in treating various conditions is unmatched.
Modern-day veterinarians use ultrasound to diagnose and evaluate various conditions in animals that may not be possible using other methods. It is used to assess soft tissue structures.
The fundamental behind ultrasound is that the transducer emits high-frequency waves through the body, which are imperceptible to the patient’s ear.
In this process of sending sound waves through a medium, the transducer takes only a fraction of time.
The majority of time is used up in reflecting those ultrasound waves from the tissues that are encountered by the machine.
Ultrasound is very safe because it doesn’t use ionizing radiation, unlike x-rays, so the patient is not exposed to radiation.
Low-frequency probes measure deeper and more complicated structures, whereas high-frequency probes measure shallow structures, like the internal structures just below the skin, which require detailed imaging.
The horse ultrasound imaging can be used to inspect the embryo even in its early stages, i.e., Day 12-14 post ovulation. It is better than palpation, which confirms pregnancy 30-35 days post ovulation.
Horse ultrasound is also a safer option as it is a painless procedure, whereas, in the case of rectal palpation, there is a chance of tearing the rectum.
Ultrasound requires the preparation of mares by tying the tails and emptying the rectum. This ensures smooth insertion of the probe into the rectum.
When the probe is rectally inserted, the veterinarian can visualize the uterus through its cross-section.
Horse ultrasound helps to take images of the soft tissues in the horse’s body. The two main soft tissues are tendons and ligaments.
The larger joints are also taken care of, which includes the stifle joint. Horse stifle ultrasound is a frequently carried out procedure.
Ultrasound imaging in horses can also be used to diagnose any wounds or fractures of the pelvis.
Horse leg ultrasound
In the lower limb, the ligaments and tendons are assessed using horse leg ultrasound to find any injury and record the examination’s response.
Horse limb ultrasound is also used for the upper limb check-up. In the upper limb, ultrasound detects the structures which have any muscle damage or injuries.
Horse ultrasound helps veterinarians reach deep areas in horses that other techniques can’t reach or struggle to reach.
It gives information about the bones and ligaments around the joints.
Horse tendon ultrasound
Horse ultrasound has become a popular technique for diagnosing musculoskeletal injuries.
It is used for assessing joint conditions, especially in inflammation and infection in the joints.
The tendons and ligaments in joints are examined for damage and other structures present in the joints.
Horse abdominal ultrasound
Evaluation of abdominal organs is most often done as a separate complete process.
Organs like kidneys, liver and spleen are examined using horse ultrasound to diagnose renal, hepatic and splenic abnormalities.
Horse stomach ultrasound also falls under horse abdominal ultrasound.
Abdominal pain is one of the major consequences of an emergency in the equine field.
Horse stifle ultrasound
The stifle is a horse’s most complex joint. Any distress to stifle can lead to a stifle injury. This can be complicated even more due to fractures.
Developmental conditions of the stifles, when experienced in mares, can be passed on to baby horses too.
Stifle injuries majorly cause limb lameness in horses. These injuries normally affect the soft tissues of the joints in horses.
Equine stifle ultrasound can help remove these stifle lesions.
Horse hoof ultrasound
Horse ultrasound can also be used for the hoof or foot. Although the hooves of a horse might appear hard, they contain many soft tissues internally.
These soft tissues are not visible on x-ray, and so, horse hoof ultrasound can be used to identify them and diagnose any injuries in these areas.
Imaging relies on more for hooves. However, the injuries in hooves are tough to diagnose because there aren’t many ways to see the foot.
Also, it is important to note that hooves can contain both bony and soft tissue injuries simultaneously and differentiate between them can be hard.
Horse pregnancy ultrasound
A horse ultrasound can visualize the developing embryo at as early as 12 to 14 days of gestation.
However, only by day 15 to 17, the embryonic vesicle gets fixated to the uterus wall and is much easier to observe in the horse ultrasound pictures.
By day 24, the image of a heartbeat can be taken to confirm the presence of a viable fetus.
Early fetuses are not that developed and can often be mistaken for uterine cysts.
An ultrasound that measures an increase in vesicle size can help differentiate these cysts from actual pregnancies.
Twinning-Twin pregnancies often terminate in the third trimester or may also result in the conception of dysmature foals.
Hence it is essential to diagnose twin pregnancy using ultrasound as it can cause high risks.
Imaging might prove difficult if the twins are placed on top of each other close to the sides in the uterus.
The horse pregnancy ultrasound is done treating the twin embryos as separate entities. As per research data, about 95% of the twin pregnancies end up in abortion or two stillborn fetuses.
Therefore, some intervention is needed in twin pregnancy or else it can cause huge loss with the mare carrying foals for 8-9 months only to result in abortion at term-end.
Even if the mare conceives both the twins, they may be dysmature and live only up to two weeks.
On the other hand, getting a horse pregnancy ultrasound done and visualizing the two embryos can allow the veterinarian to manually separate them through transrectal ultrasound, after which the smaller one is killed in the womb itself.
This procedure must be performed within 17 days of gestation, after which the embryo starts developing.
Twinning is very common in Thoroughbreds, the possibility ranging from 3-30% depending on the breed. Twinning contributes to about 20-30% of abortions in Thoroughbred mares.
Problems in fertility- Uterine cysts are mostly unharmful, but they can still affect the mares somehow.
It can interfere with the attachment of the fetus to the uterine wall. These cysts can be detected using horse ultrasound.
The uterus may retain some fluids because of endometritis caused by irritation due to the semen of the stallion trapped in the uterus.
This fluid retention can be imaged using horse reproductive ultrasound. The mare may be treated with intrauterine infusion if such a condition is diagnosed.
Moreover, the mares can be evaluated post-pregnancy to determine how much heat is left in them to breed back.
Horse kidney ultrasound
Equine Renal ultrasound is performed to find any anomalies in the horse’s kidneys. The renal architecture is observed and evaluated.
If the kidneys are affected, they might be distorted in shape. Small kidneys might hint at chronic renal failure. Renal cysts can also occur in horses.
Horse lung ultrasound
Horse lung ultrasound is a widespread equine practice used to evaluate equine thoracic diseases and obtain information about lungs non-invasive.
Horse reproductive ultrasound
Routine horse ultrasound examinations of broodmares are essential. The ovaries and uterus must be assessed to make sure that the reproductive tract is in proper condition.
Horse reproductive ultrasound assesses the changes caused by reproductive hormones in mares and is useful during each stage of pregnancy diagnosis.
Horse reproductive ultrasound enables early pregnancy diagnosis and determines if a mare is going to birth twins, which is essential to prevent any risks in horse pregnancy, both to the mother and the foal.
In the case of mares who undergo artificial insemination, regular ultrasound scans are required to ensure that the insemination is carried out at the best time.
Horse pelvis ultrasound
The joints of the pelvis are scanned directly with a rectal ultrasound scan. As it is difficult to scan the pelvis area using radiography, ultrasound can be performed on the pelvis when horses have lumbosacral pain.
Horse pelvis ultrasound accurately evaluates the musculoskeletal areas of the pelvis in horses.
CT and MRI can further confirm the findings and measurements of the ultrasound scan. Both internal, as well as external scans can be performed.
Ultrasound of other body parts
Neck: Neck pain can cause serious problems like lameness and even problems in the neurological system connected to the neck.
Bone changes and inflammation can be identified using horse ultrasound. These may be the reason behind neck pain.
Back: Deeper structures in the back of horses are hard to x-ray. Ultrasound can be used to reach these tougher parts.
The muscles and ligaments in this region are assessed using ultrasound. Back pain and stiffness can be diagnosed using horse ultrasound.
How much does horse ultrasound cost?
Horse ultrasound costs can range from $150-$600 lump sum depending on where you get it done.
The bone scans can cost $1200 to $2000, excluding the follow-up treatments or additional diagnosis which follows the findings.
Horse ultrasound pregnancy cost
Horse pregnancy ultrasound costs $100-$120 for a single ultrasound visit, including the call fee. Sedation attracts extra charges.
Horse tendon ultrasound cost
Horse tendon ultrasound typically costs around $200 to $300, depending on where you reside.
Horse ultrasound pictures
For the best quality pictures, the mare must be prepared well before the ultrasound examination.
Its abdominal hair should be clipped completely, more so necessary in older and fat horses and those with a thick mane.
If the clipping is not done, the image tends to turn out of poor quality.
Alcohol can also be applied to the area to be diagnosed for better quality images, but it would still not substitute clipping.
There are many subtle elements of the anatomy which may not be visible in the ultrasound imaging without clipping.
Post clipping, the horse must be cleaned using a wet sponge to be diagnosed to remove dirt and ultrasound gel is applied after that.
The scanning depth needs to be tweaked now and then during a horse ultrasound examination to ensure optimal image quality.
Different organs need different image depth settings.
For example, an abdominal horse ultrasound must capture maximum details, so the preset should be chosen accordingly. Timing controls should be adjusted too.
How to read horse ultrasound pictures
To read the ultrasound picture, you must first know that the fluid-filled structures are black, and the soft tissues are shown as different degrees of white on the monitor screen.
The bone appears as a bright white line as it is very dense. The tendons appear greyish.
The transducer catches the ultrasound waves reflected, which are then used by the computer to obtain detailed images of the internal organs and their components.
The transducer collects the waves that bounce back, and a computer then uses those sound waves to create a picture giving detailed real-time images of a wide range of anatomical structures.
Going deeper into the bone structures is difficult, but horse ultrasound can investigate the problems in bone structures where x-rays cannot reach, like the pelvis and spine.
How to tell if your horse has kidney problems?
Chronic Kidney Disease, when detected early, can be treated early, preventing the chance of development of the disease.
The symptoms of chronic kidney disease include weight loss, excessive urination, rise in water intake, ventral edema (which is normally located between their two front legs), or not doing right in general.
Horse kidney ultrasound plays a crucial role here.
Fluid therapy can be used to tell about kidney disease from general dehydration.
The severity of the condition can be determined by the results which are obtained in 24 hours. There is a strong possibility of primary kidney disease if the kidney values fare high.
In this case, the further diagnostic examination is recommended. The exact cause of kidney disease cannot be generally determined.
How to measure a horseshoe kidney on ultrasound?
Horseshoe kidneys are the most commonly diagnosed renal anomaly. The kidneys become vulnerable to trauma because of this.
It is also one of the root causes for developing renal calculi and transitional cell carcinoma of the pelvis.
The fusion of two distinct functional kidneys in front of the lower aorta forms a horseshoe kidney.
A horse kidney ultrasound reveals fused lower poles of both the kidneys and an abnormally short longitudinal axis in the prenatal phase.
The lower pole margin is not defined enough, and the long dimension of the kidney is shorter than before.
Despite some reports on the prenatal diagnosis of a horseshoe kidney, its occurrence has not been clearly identified in a fetus.
Hence, it is likely to go unnoticed during fetal life.
How to ultrasound a pregnant horse?
The pregnancy confirmation schedule varies from breed to breed. One of the basic schedules is as follows:
Days 14-18- Pregnancy and the presence of twins are confirmed during this period.
Days 25-30- Check whether the embryo is developing normally. Assessment of the heartbeat is done, and the amre is rechecked for twins using horse ultrasound.
Days 40-60- Examine the fetal development to check if it’s normal. 45 days post ovulation; the embryo becomes spherical in shape.
The stage of gestation can be fairly assessed by checking the pattern of development in the uterine membrane of the mares.
Foal check- In later pregnancy, an ultrasound should be conducted to know if the mare is still pregnant and there are no complications in the pregnancy.
The placenta and developing fetus can be monitored using ultrasound. Infections such as placentitis and other problems can be identified at this stage.
When should a pregnant horse have an ultrasound?
An equine pregnancy ultrasound can detect pregnancy on Day 14-16 of gestation. This is when twinning is evaluated too.
On Day 25-30, the second pregnancy ultrasound is conducted to detect the fetus’s heartbeat.
On Day 45-60, the third pregnancy assessment is done for confirmation of heartbeat and state of pregnancy.
On Day 60-90, deworming is done using ultrasound to rid the mare of harmful worms and parasites.
On Day 120-150, fetal sex can be determined using transabdominal ultrasound examination.
When the third trimester begins, additional ultrasound may be performed in case of complications in pregnancy.
How do you prepare a horse for an ultrasound?
Horse ultrasound needs proper conditioning of the horse as it can’t travel through air or dirt.
The horse must be prepared by clipping the affected area, washing it thoroughly with soap, and applying a water-based ultrasound gel that enables the sound waves to pass through it.
If the ultrasound is done on dirty hair or skin, image artifacts tend to occur.
Mild sedation may be required as the horse must be kept really still for this examination to get good quality images.
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