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Veterinary Echocardiography for Pets

Veterinary Echocardiography for Pets

In this post, our Thousand Oaks vets discuss echocardiograms (ECG) for dogs and cats, when your vet will order one and how to understand your pet's results.

What is an echocardiogram for pets?

An ECG, also known as an EKG, stands for electrocardiogram. It is a non-invasive test for monitoring your pet's heart. Small sensors attached to the skin monitor electrical activity to provide an image of the heart's activity.

What does an ECG tell your veterinarian about your pet?

Your vet can learn several things about your pet's heart from an ECG. Firstly, it detects the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. They gain an understanding of the electrical impulses that flow through each section of the heart.

The pattern of a typical ECG includes a small bump that rises up, known as the P-wave, followed by a large spike upward called the QRS complex, and finally another small bump known as the T-wave.

The atria contract, represented by the P-wave. The ventricles depolarize, or contract in the typical 'heartbeat' rhythm, resulting in the QRS complex. The heart repolarizes during the T-wave, which signifies a phase of relaxation and resetting of its electrical state.

The wave's shape will be examined by your veterinarian, who will also measure the distance between its various parts. Many people often worry about the information regarding the P-Wave and QRS complex intervals. The heart takes in and pumps blood at different rates.

Knowing this is crucial as it has a direct impact on a pet's overall health and well-being. Your pet's overall well-being relies on a healthy heart, which efficiently supplies oxygen and nutrients to every part of their body. This ensures that their organs function properly and they have the energy they need. In addition, a normal heart rate aids in the elimination of waste products from tissues, boosts the immune system, and enhances cardiovascular fitness.

The peaks of the QRS complex and the distance between them provide significant information. A regular heartbeat occurs when the spikes maintain a constant distance. An irregular heartbeat can occur if there is variation.

What are normal cat and dog ECGs?

The normal rhythm for a canine ECG should be 60 to 170 beats per minute. The normal rhythm of a cat’s ECG should be 140 to 220 beats per minute.

Are ECGs safe?

Yes, ECG tests are safe. ECG is a non-invasive diagnostic test that passively monitors the heart.

When would a vet use an ECG?

Your vet may order an ECG for your cat in any of these circumstances: 

Abnormal Cardiovascular Rhythm

Obvious abnormalities like cardiac murmurs, gallop sounds, and arrhythmias may require an ECG. Diastolic dysfunction in dogs and cats often presents with these common symptoms, making it crucial to always recommend an ECG in such cases.

Intracardiac or extracardiac disease can cause arrhythmias, and an ECG can help diagnose primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease. The ECG is also useful in determining the most suitable anti-arrhythmic therapy for every patient.

Breed Screening

Many dog and cat breeds inherit heart disease. This disease is frequently found in dog breeds such as the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Boxer, and Cocker Spaniel. Among feline breeds, the American Shorthair, Persian, and Maine Coon cats are more prone to being diagnosed with this condition compared to others.

Thoracic Radiographic Changes

X-rays can reveal an enlarged heart or the presence of fat tissue around the heart. The ECG is highly accurate in measuring the dimensions of each cardiac chamber and can also help identify the cause of an enlarged heart seen in X-rays.

Feline Echocardiography

Cats with severe cardiomyopathy or other heart conditions can pose a challenge as cardiac patients, even if they don't exhibit any outward symptoms. The ECG is often the sole diagnostic procedure for cats, capable of detecting heart problems with great sensitivity.

ECG evaluations are often recommended for purebred cats to confirm the presence of heart disease and determine the necessary treatment.

How much is an ECG for a dog or cat?

It's always best to contact your vet directly if you're curious about the cost. They should be able to provide you with an accurate estimate.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our experienced veterinarians are skilled in performing ECGs and can accurately diagnose any potential heart conditions in your beloved pet. Don't hesitate to reach out to our Thousand Oaks vets for a thorough evaluation if your pet is experiencing an emergency.

New Patients Welcome

VSEC Thousand Oaks is accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions.

Contact (805) 492-2436