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Don't Doppler For The Fun Of It

Ultrasound is a very useful and effective tool for pregnancy diagnosis. It is a very safe tool, but not perfectly so. As with many medical procedures, it is safe when used where necessary, but can be dangerous if it is over-used.

Ultrasound is used for many things in medicine including cleaning instruments, imaging (diagnosing pregnancy and many other conditions), visualizing the flow of fluids (echo-cardiogram) and physical therapy. Sound waves can be very powerful; another medical ultrasound application is the fragmentation of stones in the gall bladder or the kidney (lithotripsy). Sound waves also produce heat; theraputic ultrasound used by physical therapists is basically deep heat treatment. We don't want to heat or disrupt any fetal tissues. All discussions of ultrasound advise that it be used only where appropriate. It is always appropriate to keep sessions brief. Doppler type ultrasounds create more destructive heat than scanning probes.

Appropriate use of ultrasound during pregnancy includes:
  • Pregnancy diagnosis at about 4 weeks gestation
  • Checking for live fetuses if abortion is suspected
  • Checking for a dead puppy at the time of delivery

Doppler ultrasounds are being sold on the internet for breeders to use to listen to their puppies' hearts. The machines are presented as almost recreational devices by one of the companies selling them. Ideally a doppler wouldn't be used until very close to delivery, and then only to see if a fetus observed on x-ray was alive or dead. At other times during gestation, a scanner type of ultrasound should be used to diagnose pregnancy and to check for abortion. Dopplers should not be used as a kind of TV substitute, for you to pass the time before your puppies are born!

Canine Fertility Center - Dr. Mary C. Wakeman, D.V.M.

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