As a veterinarian we have all kinds of diagnostic tools at our disposal. When a sick pet is in front of us we use a thorough history and physical examination to best determine the likely causes of illness. Sometimes we need further diagnostics to help us out or give us more detail. At many primary care veterinarians this is blood work or X-rays. We have those at AHCC but we also have begun to increasingly use our ultrasound machine.
Ultrasound is a fantastic diagnostic tool but it comes with a steep learning curve. I have received extra hours of ultrasound training and quite frankly really enjoy the challenge of that learning curve. However, I’ve learned the ultrasound usually draws cases which tend to have some sad news. Sure, I get a few who are normal or which show healthy puppies in the womb, but more often than not, I find some form of disease that carries with it a guarded prognosis. I guess this is where the statement “ignorance is bliss” makes sense.
Last week I used the ultrasound to diagnose a gall bladder mucocele in an old dog. Surgery is almost always needed for these but even with surgery it is a very dangerous and risky process. The owners decided not to pursue the risky surgical treatments. We kept him comfortable for a few more days before saying goodbye. The owner said something to me as we were reminiscing about her beloved…she said she was so thankful to know exactly what was ailing him so we weren’t completely in the dark as to why he was so sick. She was happy she didn’t have to take him to a specialist and that she was able to receive the answers right here at our clinic instead of another less familiar hospital. I can’t thank her enough for sharing that with me. I’ll forever remember this as it helps me further understand the value of what I am able to offer our clients, even if it is a bit of a burden to be the bearer of bad news.
The flip side of the blissful ignorance coin is the fact that “knowledge is power”. I too must remember the times ultrasound has saved the life of a pet by giving us the knowledge of what was occurring and time to fix it. My most fond memory of this was when a dog had an intussuception of the intestines which was identified through ultrasound. He was on and off the surgery table within two hours of his ultrasonographic diagnosis. So yes, I love ultrasound. I’m happy to continue to provide this service and hope to save more lives with it, or at the very least, to make sense of an ailing pet and allow us to keep him comfortable with the power of knowledge.