Here at Tauranga, Katikati, Te Puna, Papamoa Village Vets we are extremely fortunate to have Dr Sonia McCaw on our team.

Sonia is a highly knowledgeable and skilled veterinarian, with a special interest in ultrasonography. She says she loves everything about it, especially the fact that it is non-invasive and such a valuable diagnostic tool to diagnose everything from lumps and bumps, heart disease to a peach pip blocking a loop of bowel.

We asked Sonia about her special skill set and why it has become such an important tool in the veterinary industry.

Tell us a bit about your specialised skill of ultrasonography:
Ultrasound is an invaluable tool for the GP vet especially when other diagnostic technologies like CT or MRI are either not available or not affordable. Many parts of the body can be evaluated with ultrasound including the chest, organs of the abdomen, eyes as well as tendons and muscles. Ultrasound can be used safely to get a quick diagnosis, even when animals are extremely unwell and poor candidates for surgery. Ultrasound can be used to obtain tissue samples. This is really helpful for diagnosis when we find lumps or bumps and is much less invasive than surgery. It can help us understand an animal’s prognosis especially then tumours are found to have spread through the body. When a pet is unwell it can help us decide whether they need surgical or medical treatment. Ultrasound means we can target the specific problem and don’t have to waste money and time performing unnecessary procedures.

What sparked your interest in veterinary ultrasound?
Using ultrasound is like having Xray vision. I love that you can look into the patient’s body in real time and see not just the outside surface of an organ but also the fine detail of the structure within. It is a very peaceful process for the patient and you would be amazed at the depth and detail of information we can uncover. Ultrasound has been my passion since I was at vet school and I think it always will be.

What extra qualifications / training have you received?
Like many things that involve hand eye coordination the best way to become good at ultrasound is to do a lot of it. That is what I have done and I have been lucky to have been given many ultrasound opportunities at the practices I have worked for. Whenever possible I also attend ultrasound CPD courses to fine tune my skills. These include advanced Echocardiography and abdominal imaging courses. Ultrasound journals and texts are also a great source of information.

In what instance would an animal need your specialised skills? Would you say it has become a vital tool? In what way?
Any animal with a history of weight loss, acute or chronic vomiting, diarrhoea, sudden collapse or weakness, heart murmur, a suspected or palpable mass within the abdomen or chest, anaemia or fever. There are many instances where ultrasound is a logical next step in the diagnostic pathway. Yes, I would say it is vital as it is such an accessible, safe and non-invasive way of finding out what is causing the issue.  This helps us make the best plan of what to do next.