Joint and Muscle Ultrasounds in Dogs

As part of our advanced services, we offer joint and muscle ultrasounds in dogs. We use the latest technology to diagnose many conditions that cause pain and disability in your dog’s joints or muscles. Diagnosis of a condition can be done with an ultrasound examination, which is non-invasive and safe for your pet!

Musculoskeletal Ultrasound is used commonly in humans. It has been used extensively in Europe & USA for many years now and now slowly gaining popularity among practitioners in Australia in more recent years.

Ultrasound is a great tool to help diagnose musculoskeletal lesions in dogs! It can provide guidance on the best treatment options available and management of chronic conditions like arthritis and muscle strains.


How is a Musculoskeletal Ultrasound different from a regular Ultrasound?

A MSK Ultrasound requires specific probes – (linear & high frequency) to be able to acquire adequate images for assessment. These probes are not usually used extensively for ultrasound of other areas. 

In addition the Ultrasound unit itself is a “High end” model, specifically designed to capture extraordinary detail which is needed when imaging muscles, ligaments, tendons and the outside layer of bones.

To be able to perform MSK Ultrasounds requires specific training. This can’t be done by any vet with an Ultrasound machine.

Our practice director and senior vet Dr Lisa has undergone further training under the guidance of International Specialists to be able to carry out MSK Ultrasounds.

Most areas can be assessed while your dog is awake however sometimes we use sedation just to keep your dog relaxed enough to get the images we need.

Only rarely do we need to use anaesthesia and that depends on the type of muscle being assessed. e.g. ileopsoas muscles

Clipping is always required, because of the fine details we are trying to assess. Fur gets in the way of image quality and reduces the diagnostic ability of the procedure. 

The common areas we use MSK Ultrasound for: 

Shoulder joint: Most shoulder injuries involve the supporting structures of the joint which are made up of ligaments and tendons. These structures are soft tissue and not bony so can rarely be assessed  with X-Rays. Using these special probes we can assess ligaments & structures both outside and inside the joint. We can see the internal structure of the tendons which means we can also assess partial tears. 

Unlike X-rays – Ultrasound gives us “moving pictures” This means we can “see” muscle movement, which can be really important for biceps function. 

We use Arthroscopy to assess structures within the joint especially where trauma is involved. Sometimes both are required for full assessment 

The combination of MSK Ultrasound and arthroscopy is considered the gold standard in assessing the shoulder and is considered more sensitive than MRI for this.

Medial joint structures, supraspinatus & infraspinatus insertions as well as biceps become visible & are able to be assessed from integrity. 

Stifle joint Can assess anterior cruciate ligament, menisci, collaterals, quadriceps insertion & fat pads. Arthroscopy can assess the intra-articular structures, but not the extra-articular ones. Again these structures are not visible on x-rays.

Achilles tendon complex Can assess for tears (clinical & subclinical) assess degree of damage & monitor healing post treatment . Very often we find evidence of bilateral disease. 

Ultrasound is also often used to monitor for healing post procedure: 

  • Muscles after tears
  • Tendon damage
  • Fracture healing – can see fibrous & bony bridging across fracture lines as well as assessing degree of blood supply to help with management & assessment of delayed & non unions 

We also use ultrasound to monitor regrowth of musculature post surgery or injury and will sometimes do this at the same time as monitoring for healing. Ultrasound can be used to determine if a muscle is healed correctly, which we may not see on x-ray – so it’s important that they get scanned during recovery too!

Ultrasound and Regenerative Medicine (Stem Cell Procedures)

We use ultrasound to be able to not only collect samples from specific areas but to introduce treatments (usually regenerative medicine therapies such as PRP and Stem Cells)) to specific areas such as ligaments & tendons at the site of visible damage.


❔Do I need a referral for a MSK Ultrasound?

No. You can organise a musculoskeletal ultrasound by calling us on 9716 2495 and asking to speak with our concierge. We may need a copy of your dog’s recent vet history to assess suitability for this procedure.

❔Does my pet need to be sedated or be under anaesthesia?

No, not always – we usually advise that pets are sedated if they’re very anxious or in pain, as it helps keep them still

❔For what type of conditions do you recommend a MSK Ultrasound?

Mild musculoskeletal injuries such as ligament or tendon damage, degenerative joint disease and muscle tears. These conditions may not show up on x-rays or MRI’s but can be identified through a musculoskeletal ultrasound. We also use MSK Ultrasounds to monitor healing of orthopaedic procedures.

Great for all dogs and especially working or sporting dogs where healing and return to former mobility is important.

❔What does a MSK Ultrasound cost?

MSK Ultrasounds start from $400 including hospital stay and depend on the type and number of areas to be imaged

❔How long does the procedure last?

A musculoskeletal ultrasound usually takes 30 minutes or less, depending on what type of injury is being assessed. We are happy to discuss this with you when booking your appointment.


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