In this article, our veterinarian from Gilbert will explain everything you need to know about ECGs for dogs and cats. We will discuss when your vet may request one for your pet and how to interpret the results, so you can make informed decisions about their health care.
What is an ECG?
An ECG, also known as an EKG, is an abbreviation for electrocardiogram. It's a test that monitors your heart by attaching small sensors to your skin, which measure the electrical activity of your heart. This test is completely safe and doesn't require any invasive procedures. It's a simple and effective way to observe the heart's behavior in both humans and animals.
What Does an ECG Tell Your Veterinarian About Your Pet?
An ECG is a test that gives your vet important information about your pet's heart. It measures the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat and shows the electrical impulses in different parts of the heart.
The ECG pattern has three parts: the P wave, the QRS complex, and the T wave. 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.
The vet looks at the shape and distance of the waves to make sure they are correct. They also look at the PR interval and the QRS complex interval to see how fast the heart is taking in and pumping out blood.
The vet measures the distance between the peaks of the QRS complex to see if the heartbeat is regular or irregular. They also count how many QRS complexes there are to calculate the heart rate.
It's important to note that the rate and rhythm of cats and dogs can vary. Your vet can tell you what is normal for your pet's breed.
Are ECG 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
When examining dogs and cats, abnormal heart sounds like murmurs, gallops, and irregular rhythms may indicate a problem with the heart's ability to relax and fill with blood. In such cases, an echocardiogram is usually recommended to check for heart disease. Arrhythmias, which can be caused by both heart and non-heart-related issues, can also be diagnosed with an echocardiogram. This test helps to identify any underlying cardiac problems and select the right treatment plan to manage the patient's arrhythmia.
Certain types of dogs and cats are more likely to develop heart disease due to genetics. Sometimes, a specialist who is certified in studying heart issues may listen to their heart with a stethoscope to make sure there is no abnormal noise. If there is, then a more thorough evaluation called an echo is recommended. But in some breeds, an echo is always needed to check for heart disease.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes
Cardiomegaly, or an enlarged heart, can be caused by cardiac enlargement, pericardial fat buildup, or differences among patients. An echocardiogram is a specific test that can determine the size of each heart chamber and help identify the cause of cardiomegaly seen on radiographs. An echocardiogram is also effective in detecting congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.
Cats can be difficult patients for heart problems because they may have severe heart issues even if they don't show any physical signs. To diagnose heart disease in cats, an echocardiogram is usually the best option. Purebred cats are more likely to have heart problems, so getting an echocardiogram for them is especially helpful. If heart disease is suspected, an echocardiogram is recommended to confirm the diagnosis and determine how to treat the cat.
Before placing a dog or cat under anesthesia, it can be helpful to obtain a complete understanding of the patient’s cardiovascular status.
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.