In this post, our Hattiesburg and Wiggins 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?
Electrocardiogram, or ECG, is the abbreviation for electrocardiogram. This is a test for heart monitoring. Attached to the skin are small sensors that monitor electrical activity and provide an image of the heart's condition. This is a non-invasive method for observing the heart in humans and animals alike.
Your best bet is to ask your vet directly if you are curious as to how much an ECG will cost for your dog or cat. They can provide you with a more accurate estimate.
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 there 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.
Your veterinarian will be primarily concerned with the correctness of the wave's shape and distance between its various components. The data provided by the PR interval and the QRS complex interval is frequently a source of concern. These indicate the rate at which the heart receives and pumps 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.
Last but not least you can read how many QRS complexes there are and calculate how many there are over a time interval and you will have the heart rate.
The rate and rhythm of cats and dogs can vary please consult your veterinarian about what are the expected values for your pet.
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?
Some examples of when a vet may order an ECG test are:
Abnormal Cardiovascular Physical Exam
Cardiac murmurs, gallop sounds, and arrhythmias are a few of the obvious physical examination abnormalities that require an echocardiogram. This is a common sign of diastolic dysfunction in canines and felines, and an echocardiogram is always advised. Intracardiac or extracardiac disease can result in arrhythmias. An echocardiogram can help rule out primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease, which could be the cause of the arrhythmia. Additionally, the echocardiogram helps determine the optimal antiarrhythmic therapy for each patient.
Numerous dog and cat breeds are genetically susceptible to heart disease. A board-certified cardiologist may recommend auscultation to rule out the presence of a murmur. For a comprehensive evaluation, an echocardiogram is recommended if a murmur is detected. However, an echocardiogram is always recommended to screen for heart disease in certain breeds.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes
On radiographs, cardiomegaly may be the result of cardiac enlargement, pericardial fat accumulation, or patient variation. An echocardiogram is the most accurate method for determining the size of each cardiac chamber and is of great assistance in determining the cause of radiographic cardiomegaly. The echocardiogram is highly specific and sensitive for congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.
Cats can have severe cardiomyopathy in the absence of physical exam abnormalities, radiographic changes, and/or clinical symptoms, making them particularly challenging to treat as cardiology patients. In many instances, the only diagnostic test that is both specific and sensitive for heart disease in cats is an echocardiogram. Due to the higher prevalence of heart disease in purebred cats, echocardiographic evaluation is frequently fruitful in these patients. If this test reveals that the patient has heart disease suspicions, an echocardiogram is advised to confirm the presence of heart disease and determine the patient's therapeutic needs.
Before placing a dog or cat under anesthesia, it can be helpful to obtain a complete understanding of the patient’s cardiovascular status.
What does a normal dog or cat ECG look like?
If you're curious as to what a normal cat or dog ECG looks like, there are plenty of images you can search for on Google to give you an idea.
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.