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ECGs for Pets

In this post, our Statesboro vets will discuss ECGs for dogs and cats, when your vet will order one as well as how to understand your pet's results so you can make the best decisions regarding their health care.

What is an ECG?

ECG is an abbreviation for an electrocardiogram. This is a test for monitoring the heart. Small sensors are attached to the skin and monitor electrical activity to provide an image of what the heart is doing. This is a non-invasive method of observing the heart in both pets and humans.

Your best bet is to inquire directly with your veterinarian about the cost of an electrocardiogram (ECG) for your pet animal, whether it be a dog or a cat. They are able to provide you with an estimate that is more up to date.

What does an ECG tell your veterinarian about your pet?

A feline or canine ECG tells your vet several things about your pet's heart. It gives the rate and the rhythm of the heartbeat along with an understanding of the electrical impulses that are going through each section of the heart.

A typical ECG will consist of a pattern where it will be a small bump that rises called the P wave, then A large spike upward called the QRS complex, and then another small bump called the T wave.

The P wave represents the atria contracting. The QRS complex is where the ventricles depolarize (The large contraction of the heart that is the typical heartbeat). And The T wave in the ventricles is repolarizing.

The most important information your veterinarian will be looking for is that the wave shape is correct, as well as the distance between the various parts of the wave. The information provided by the PR interval and the QRS complex interval is frequently the source of concern. These indicate how quickly the heart is taking in and pumping blood.

The next major information is to look at the peaks of the QRS complex (the big spike) and measure the distance between them. If they are a constant distance between the spikes you have a regular heartbeat if they vary in distance you have an irregular heartbeat.

Lastly, but certainly not least, you can determine the heart rate by reading the number of QRS complexes that are present and then calculating the number of QRS complexes that are present over a certain period of time.

It is important to consult your veterinarian about the expected values for your pet, as the rate and rhythm of cats and dogs can differ from one another.

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?

In the following situations, a veterinarian might decide to order an electrocardiogram test:

Abnormal Cardiovascular Physical Exam

Cardiac murmurs, gallop sounds, and arrhythmias are just a few of the obvious physical exam abnormalities that call for an echocardiogram. This is frequently an indication of diastolic dysfunction in dogs and cats, and an echocardiogram is always recommended. The intracardiac or extracardiac disease can cause arrhythmias. An echocardiogram can help rule out primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease, which could be the cause of the arrhythmia. The echocardiogram also aids in determining the best anti-arrhythmic therapy for each patient.

Breed Screening

Many dogs and cat breeds are genetically predisposed to heart disease. Auscultation by a board-certified cardiologist is sometimes recommended to rule out the presence of a murmur. If a murmur is detected, an echocardiogram is recommended for a complete evaluation. However, in some breeds, an echocardiogram is always recommended to screen for heart disease.

Thoracic Radiographic Changes

On radiographs, cardiomegaly can be caused by cardiac enlargement, pericardial fat accumulation, and/or patient variability. An echocardiogram is the most specific tool for determining the size of each cardiac chamber and is extremely helpful in determining the cause of radiographic cardiomegaly. For congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension, the echocardiogram is highly specific and sensitive.

Feline Echocardiography

Cats are particularly difficult as cardiology patients to treat because they can have severe cardiomyopathy despite the absence of physical exam abnormalities, radiographic changes, and/or clinical signs. In many cases, an echocardiogram is the only diagnostic test that is both specific and sensitive for heart disease in cats. Because purebred cats have a higher incidence of heart disease, echocardiographic evaluation is frequently high yield in these patients. If this test reveals that the patient has suspected heart disease, an echocardiogram is recommended to confirm the presence of heart disease and determine the patient's therapeutic needs.

Pre-Anesthetic Evaluation

In order to ensure that the patient's cardiovascular status is completely understood before administering anesthesia to a canine or feline, it is advisable to obtain this information.

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.

Has your veterinarian suggested that your cat or dog could benefit from an ECG? Our Statesboro veterinarians offer ECGs, so feel free to call and book an appointment.

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Statesboro Bulloch Regional Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Statesboro companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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