One of the safest and most accurate diagnostic devices used to evaluate an animal’s heart health at Lakeview Animal Hospital is the electrocardiogram, or ECG. By recording electrical impulses within an animal’s heartbeat and amplifying them over 3000 times, an ECG can generate a detailed report regarding possible problems with your pet’s heart that cannot be detected otherwise.
Your veterinarian may want to perform an ECG on your pet if they:
- Suspect irregular heart rhythms or heart murmurs in senior pets
- Feel that certain medications are causing side effects impacting your pet’s cardiac system (heartworm medication, for example)
- Are preparing your pet for surgery requiring general anesthesia
- Are looking to find out why your pet is experiencing respiratory problems/fainting spells/difficulty breathing
- Are confirming an imaging diagnosis
If our veterinarian thinks your pet may have a heart disease, they may want to do a cardiac work-up involving a variety of tests to formulate a more exact diagnosis. Typically, an ECG is accompanied by blood tests and possibly ultrasounds or x-rays.
Electrocardiogram Test Process
After laying your pet on their side and calming them with head rubs, we attach electrodes to the chest wall, knees or elbows that are easily removed after the ECG is completed. The entire procedure is painless and finished within a few minutes. As an ECG machine monitors the animal’s heartbeats, any irregularities detected are picked up immediately and recorded. Upon interpreting the results, our veterinarian will discuss any issues found and recommend further diagnostic tests and/or treatment, if necessary.
Heart Disorders Detected by Pet ECG’s
Diseases and disorders that commonly cause heart health problems in pets include:
- Congenital heart defects (holes in the heart, narrowing of pulmonic valves, malformed, tricuspid valves and narrowing below aortic valves)
- Mitral valve disease (the most common heart disorder in dogs)
- Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy)
- Cardiac arrhythmias (tachycardia or bradycardia)
- Accumulating fluid in the pericardium (pericardial effusion)
Signs of heart conditions in pets may go unnoticed until the disease has progressed beyond the early stage. Unusual shortness of breath after physical activity, breathing difficulties, sleep restlessness and episodic fainting may indicate an abnormal heart. In addition, some pure-bred dogs are more prone to having heart issues, such as Dachshunds, cocker spaniels and bulldogs. Your veterinarian will be happy to discuss dog breeds and their potential for acquired or congenital heart conditions.