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Demystifying Echocardiograms for Pets

If your pet is suspected to have a heart problem, your veterinarian may suggest an echocardiogram. Our veterinarians in Walnut Creek explain the purpose of this procedure, the various issues that an echocardiogram can detect, the cost factors involved, and more.

What is a veterinary echocardiogram for pets? 

An echocardiogram, also known as a cardiac ultrasound, is a medical imaging procedure used to examine the structure and function of the heart. This diagnostic test is not only limited to humans but is also used for pets to provide key insights into the health of their cardiac system. By using sound waves, this non-invasive procedure allows veterinarians to observe the heart in real-time and assess its chambers and valves' size, shape, and movement.

What is an echocardiogram used for?

A veterinary sonographer can visually examine the structure of your pet's heart by performing an echocardiogram. The procedure can reveal important insights into your cat or dog's heart health.

  • The size of the heart 
  • The thickness of the heart's walls 
  • The shape of the heart 
  • How effectively the heart is pumping 

What kinds of problems can an echocardiogram detect?

An echocardiogram can identify a range of heart problems, including but not limited to: 

  • Cardiac arrhythmias 
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart murmur
  • Congenital (present from birth) heart defects that may require treatment or special care
  • Abnormalities or damage in the valves, pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart), or other areas of the heart 
  • Abnormal blood flow
  • Potential blood clots 

Echocardiograms and other diagnostic tests are crucial tools that can assist your veterinarian in making a life-saving diagnosis and developing an effective treatment or disease management plan for your dog or cat.

Sometimes, a veterinarian or sonographer may suggest a chest X-ray to check for symptoms related to heart problems. For instance, fluid in your cat or dog's lungs may indicate congestive heart failure. These insights enable us to create a personalized treatment plan to manage and address your pet's condition adequately.

Safety and Non-Invasiveness

Echocardiography is an effective way to examine pets' heart health. One significant advantage of this imaging technique is that it is non-invasive. Unlike other methods like angiography, echocardiograms do not require anesthesia or sedation in most cases, making them safer for pets. Moreover, the procedure is painless and usually well-tolerated by animals, allowing for efficient and stress-free assessments of their cardiac health.

How much will my pet's echocardiogram scan cost? 

The price of your pet's echocardiogram will depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Location 
  • Type of echocardiogram (some animal clinics or hospitals may use more advanced imaging techniques, which come at a higher price) 
  • Your cat or dog's overall health and size 
  • Whether any additional tests or treatments are needed

To get a precise cost estimate for an echocardiogram for your cat or dog, contact the veterinarian at the hospital where the procedure is performed.

What can I expect during my pet's echocardiogram appointment?

During your pet's echocardiogram, the veterinarian will ask your pet to lie on its side and will apply a special ultrasound gel to its chest. This gel helps sound waves travel more efficiently, producing the image of the heart.

The procedure typically takes about 20 minutes, during which time your veterinary sonographer may need to shave your pet's coat to allow the transducer to make direct contact with the skin.

The handheld transducer is then placed over the skin and sends sound waves to the heart, which are translated into images on a screen. The sonographer moves the transducer to strategic areas so that all parts of the heart can be seen and assessed.

What will happen after my cat or dog's echocardiogram?

After your cat or dog's echocardiogram appointment, the veterinary specialist will examine the results, explain the diagnosis, and develop a plan to manage or treat your pet's condition.

Depending on the severity of the heart disease, it may be easier and less expensive to manage. However, it is much easier to prevent heart failure than to treat it.

Proper preventive veterinary care, specialized treatment, and monitoring can help prolong the life of your pet.

The veterinary specialist may choose to monitor the problem, start preventive measures, or implement a treatment plan that includes monitoring your pet's nutrition, activity, and medication.

They will provide guidance on management, prognosis, and any actions they recommend you take at home.

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.

Do you have questions about your pet's upcoming diagnostic imaging appointment at Ygnacio Animal Hospital? Contact us today. We will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

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Ygnacio Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Walnut Creek companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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