Small animal abdominal ultrasound patient prep

Guide to preparation for small animal abdominal ultrasound scanning

Correct patient preparation for ultrasound scanning is vital because improper preparation can result in artefact. This will be seen as a hypoechoic ‘shadow’ resulting in poor image quality or non-visualisation of anatomy. It is caused by air being trapped under/around hair and skin, thereby preventing good transmission of the ultrasound waves into the patient.

Patient preparation

  • Hair removal
    • A clip area that is too large is better than too small
    • Ensure good communication with the owners about the amount of hair to be removed

Guide for area to be clipped for complete abdominal scan

patient prep

Cranial – extend to xiphoid process (blue arrow)and follow the costal arch (grey arrow heads) dorsolaterally on left and right abdominal wall.

Caudal – extend to pubic symphysis


patient prep

Dorsal and lateral – extend to the sub lumbar muscles (red arrow heads), following the costal arch 

  • Clean the skin as required
    • It is important to degrease the skin if required
    • Dilute chlorhexidine (e.g. Hibiscrub), isopropyl alcohol (spirit) or mild shampoo can be used sparingly
    • Take care if the skin is inflamed prior to examination
  • Ultrasound gel
    • Apply liberally in the direction of hair growth
    • Aim to avoid any air in layer of gel
  • Time
    • Wait for the gel to absorb into the skin, ideally 5 minutes
    • Application of warmed gel decreases absorption time
    • Increased contact time of gel on the skin improves image quality (there can be as much as 50% improvement)
  • Scan
  • Through the duration of the examination the gel will absorb and dry out; application of gel during the examination is usually required

Scan location

The features of an ideal location are:

  • Quiet room
  • Ability to darken
  • Good stable table, height adjustable is preferred
  • Height adjustable seating for ultrasonographer
  • Comfortable bedding for the patient to lie on
  • If echocardiography is being performed a cardiac cut out table or table top will be required
  • Chemical restraint may be required
  • Allow sufficient time; approximately 30 mins would be recommended for an abdominal ultrasound examination


  • Remove gel from the patient’s skin gently. Using wetted swabs or cotton wool will remove gel residue without irritating the skin.
  • Gently dry skin

Ensure probe is cleaned after each scan with a suitable product or fresh water.

Next Steps...

At IMV imaging we want to help our customers provide the best in animal care. As such we are dedicated to providing the best equipment, advice, learning, customer care and technical support. 

Contact us at +91 124 4770707 or write us at [email protected]


Get Updates


IMV imaging on YouTube

Follow us on YouTube for the latest news, clinical materials and more.

IMV imaging YouTube

IMV imaging on LinkedIn

Follow us on Linkedin for the latest news, clinical materials and more.

IMV imaging on LinkedIn