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ECG for Pets: When it's Needed?

Our veterinarians in Apple Valley will discuss electrocardiograms (ECGs) for dogs and cats in this article. You will learn about the situations in which your vet may require an ECG for your pet and how to interpret the results. Understanding your pet's ECG results will enable you to make informed decisions about their healthcare.

What is an ECG?

An electrocardiogram (ECG), also known as an electrocardiography (EKG), is a non-invasive heart monitoring test that utilizes sensors placed on the skin to track electrical activity. This procedure is safe and painless for animals and humans and provides an effective way to observe the heart without invasive procedures.

If you're wondering "how much an ECG is for a dog," it's best to consult with your vet for an accurate estimate. They can provide you with the information you need.

What Does an ECG Tell Your Veterinarian About Your Pet?

An ECG provides important information about your pet's heart to your veterinarian. The test can determine how fast and regularly your pet's heart beats and how electrical signals move through each part of the heart. The ECG generates a wave pattern that represents different heart actions. The P wave shows when the atria contract, the QRS complex shows when the ventricles contract, and the T wave shows when the ventricles relax.

During the test, your veterinarian will look for specific data, such as the shape and distance between the waves. They will also pay attention to the PR interval and QRS complex interval, which indicates how quickly the heart is taking in and pumping out blood. The distance between the peaks of the QRS complex is also important. If the distance is the same, the heartbeat is regular, but if it varies, it is irregular.

Your veterinarian can calculate your pet's heart rate by counting the number of QRS complexes over a certain time interval. However, the rate and rhythm of your pet's heartbeat may vary depending on its breed. Thus, it's essential to consult your veterinarian to learn more about the expected values for your pet.

How long does an ECG take for a pet?

Your veterinarian may trace your dog's electrical conduction for a short or long period, depending on the suspected abnormality and your dog's ability to remain still for a clear ECG recording.

Are ECG Safe

ECG tests are safe because they are non-invasive and passively monitor the heart as a diagnostic test.

When Would a Vet Use an ECG

Some examples of when a vet may order an ECG test are:

Abnormal Cardiovascular Physical Exam

During a physical examination, the veterinarian may observe certain abnormalities in an animal's heart, such as cardiac murmurs, gallop sounds, or arrhythmias. These abnormalities could indicate a problem with the heart's ability to relax, known as diastolic dysfunction. In such cases, veterinarians usually recommend an echocardiogram for dogs and cats. Heart diseases or other conditions can cause arrhythmias, which are irregular heartbeats. An echocardiogram can help rule out certain underlying issues, such as primary cardiomyopathy or infiltrative cardiac disease. Additionally, it can assist the veterinarian in determining the best anti-arrhythmic therapy for the animal.

Breed Screening

Some breeds of dogs and cats are more likely to inherit heart disease. Sometimes, a cardiologist may need to use a stethoscope to listen to the heart and check for unusual sounds. A complete evaluation using an echocardiogram is necessary if a murmur is present. However, certain breeds always require an echocardiogram to check for heart disease.

Thoracic Radiographic Changes

Cardiomegaly means that the heart looks bigger than usual on X-rays. Doctors often use an echocardiogram to find out why the heart seems big. This test measures the size of the heart's different parts and can help determine if the big heart is causing problems like heart failure or high blood pressure in the lungs.

Feline Echocardiography

Cats can have serious heart problems even if they look fine during a physical exam or on an X-ray. So, the best way to find out if a cat has heart disease is through a normal, very accurate ECG. Purebred cats are more likely to have heart disease, so it's important to do this test on them. An echocardiogram can also help determine the best treatment options if a cat is diagnosed with heart disease.

How do you prepare your canine for an ECG? 

The ECG is straightforward; the dog would not need to be put under anesthesia or fastened.

Pre-Anesthetic Evaluation

Understanding a dog or cat's cardiovascular health before administering anesthesia can be beneficial.

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.

If you're worried about your pet's heart, our veterinarians in Apple Valley can assist you. Please call us today to book an appointment.

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