Veterinary medicine, just like human medicine, has been subject to a colossal amount of change over the last few decades.
One of the areas of medicine where there has been the greatest change is that of non-invasive diagnostics. Non-invasive diagnostics means techniques for investigating the cause of an illness without resorting to surgery. There are obvious benefits for critically ill patients, very elderly patients or very young patients, if we can diagnose the cause of an illness without resorting to general anaesthetics and surgery.
A range of techniques are available in the modern veterinary surgeon. At Donaldson’s Vets, we have facilities at each surgery which allows us to run blood tests, X rays, ECGs and ultrasounds.
Ultrasound scanning is a fantastic technique which allows us to visualise the inside of the body by doing nothing more invasive than clipping an area of fur, applying a water based gel and resting the scanner head against the skin. We have recently upgraded the Ultrasound Scanner for our surgery at Birchencliffe which allows us to even map the flow of blood within the heart.
The technology is called “Doppler ultrasound” and it uses the same technology as a traffic police radar gun. A pulse of harmless ultrasound waves is sent out from the probe into the heart. If it bumps into blood which is moving towards the scanner, it bounces back more quickly than if it bounces into blood which is moving away from the probe. Just like the police when checking the speed of your car, we can assess the direction of flow of the blood within the heart and also its speed of flow.
Being able to see not only the muscles of the heart and its valves but the flow of blood within the heart can be invaluable. We can use Doppler ultrasound to investigate conditions like leaking heart valves older animals and hole-in-the-heart defects in puppies and kittens.