If your dog or cat experiences heart problems, they may require an ECG. In this post, our Walnut Creek vets will elucidate ECGs for pets and guide you in comprehending the results.
What is an ECG?
The electrocardiogram (ECG), or electrocardiograph (EKG), non-invasively diagnoses and monitors your pet's heart. Small sensors attached to the skin measure the heart's electrical activity, visually representing its functioning. This method allows for safely and effectively observing your pet's heart without resorting to invasive procedures.
What does an ECG tell your veterinarian about your pet?
Typically, an ECG pattern comprises distinct components: the P-wave, a small upward bump signifying atrial contraction, followed by the QRS complex, a prominent upward spike representing ventricular depolarization and corresponding to the characteristic heartbeat, and finally, the T-wave, another small bump indicating heart repolarization.
During the examination, your veterinarian will assess wave shapes and measure intervals between various segments, with particular attention given to information provided by the P-wave and the QRS complex interval. These parameters indicate the speed at which the heart receives and pumps blood.
Additionally, the peaks of the QRS complex and the distance between them offer significant insights. A consistent distance between the spikes indicates a regular heartbeat, while variations suggest an irregular heartbeat.
What are normal cat and dog ECGs?
The canine ECG should exhibit a normal rhythm ranging from 60 to 170 beats per minute, while cats should have a normal rhythm of 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?
Some examples of when a vet may order an ECG are:
Abnormal Cardiovascular Rhythm
Cardiac murmurs, gallop sounds, and arrhythmias can clearly indicate the need for an electrocardiogram (ECG). Conducting an ECG examination in dogs and cats becomes essential when these manifestations raise concerns about diastolic dysfunction.
ECGs play a crucial role in diagnosing both intracardiac and extracardiac diseases, helping to exclude primary cardiomyopathy and infiltrative cardiac conditions. Additionally, they assist in determining the most suitable anti-arrhythmic treatment for each individual patient.
Several dog and cat breeds are known to have an inheritable tendency towards developing heart disease. Among the notable dog breeds are the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Boxer, and Cocker Spaniel, to mention only a few. Similarly, certain cat breeds such as the Maine Coon, Persian, Ragdoll, and certain American Shorthairs are also recognized to have this genetic predisposition.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes Feline Echocardiography
Cats, particularly challenging cardiology patients, can exhibit severe cardiomyopathy or other heart diseases without showing clinical signs. For cats, an ECG is often the sole appropriate diagnostic test with both specificity and sensitivity.
Due to a higher incidence of heart disease in purebred cats, it is often advisable to undergo an ECG evaluation to confirm the presence of heart disease and ascertain the patient's therapeutic needs.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes
Radiographs reveal cardiomegaly resulting from cardiac enlargement, pericardial fat accumulation, and patient variability. Employing an ECG provides the most specific means to determine the size of each cardiac chamber and greatly aids in identifying the cause of radiographic cardiomegaly.
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.