Ontario Agriculture

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OVC Student Veterinarian Externship Project: Ultrasounds…more than just a pretty picture

Each summer DVM students from the Ontario Veterinary College delve into practical experience at veterinary clinics across Ontario and additional locales. These blog posts are an opportunity to tag along with five of them this summer. This week student veterinarian Chelsea describes the value of ultrasounds.  Check out all the student blogs at www.ovc.uoguelph.ca/externship

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The first time I used an ultrasound I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. To me, the picture just looked like a big blur of black and white and even holding the probe while trying to feel around inside was difficult. Now, things are starting to come more naturally and I’m feeling comfortable using an ultrasound to diagnose pregnancies. I have been very lucky to have had a significant amount of time using an ultrasound during my externship. I have taken advantage of this opportunity to try and develop this important tool and have even began practicing more advanced techniques with the ultrasound such as fetal sexing.

For food animal practice, the most typical use of ultrasounds is for pregnancy diagnosis. During herd health visits a significant part of a veterinarians job is determining if cows are pregnant or determining where they are in their cycle so you can recommend to the farmer when to breed.

Ultrasounds are wonderful tools because they allow you to visualize the uterus and ovaries which otherwise would only be accessible via palpation. Palpating with your hands is a very important skill, but it is something you have to work long and hard at before you become proficient. Even the most experienced palpator will never be 100 per cent accurate. The combination of palpation and visualization allows us to be more accurate in our diagnoses. With the ultrasound we are also better able to determine the viability of the fetus; for example by 28 days you can see a beating heart. And with the ultrasound we can actually do more advanced things, as I mentioned earlier, that would not be possible with just palpation, such as determining the sex of the fetus.

Here are a few pictures that I have taken with an ultrasound during herd health visits to farms. See if you can figure out what these are pictures of and if it is a pregnancy, how many days pregnant the cow would be…if you are having trouble then I have illustrated photos that may help you out!

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