If your dog or cat is having heart problems, they may need to have an ECG. In this post, our Woburn vets explain ECGs for pets and how to understand the results.
What is an ECG?
An electrocardiogram (ECG), also known as an electrocardiograph (EKG), serves as a non-invasive diagnostic tool for monitoring the heart of your pet. By attaching small sensors to the skin, it measures the electrical activity of the heart and provides a visual representation of its functioning. This method offers a safe and effective means of observing your pet's heart without any invasive procedures.
What does an ECG tell your veterinarian about your pet?
Typically, an ECG pattern consists of distinct components: a small upward bump known as the P-wave, followed by a prominent upward spike called the QRS complex, and finally, another small bump called the T-wave.
The P-wave signifies the contraction of the atria, while the QRS complex represents the depolarization of the ventricles, which corresponds to the characteristic heartbeat. The T-wave indicates the repolarization of the heart.
During the examination, your veterinarian will assess the shape of the waves and measure the intervals between various segments. Particular attention is given to the 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 normal rhythm for a canine ECG should be 60 to 170 beats per minute. The normal rhythm of cats should be 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 are distinct abnormalities that may clearly indicate the need for an electrocardiogram (ECG). These manifestations often raise concerns about diastolic dysfunction, making it essential to conduct an ECG examination in dogs and cats.
ECGs are valuable in diagnosing both intracardiac and extracardiac diseases, playing a crucial role in excluding primary cardiomyopathy and infiltrative cardiac conditions. Moreover, an ECG assists 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 can be particularly challenging cardiology patients because they can have severe cardiomyopathy, or other heart diseases, despite having no clinical signs. An ECG is often the only appropriate diagnostic test that is both specific and sensitive for cats.
Purebred cats have a higher incidence of heart disease, therefore an ECG evaluation is often recommended to confirm the presence of heart disease and determine the therapeutic needs of the patient.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes
Cardiomegaly noted on radiographs can be due to cardiac enlargement, pericardial fat accumulation, and/or patient variability. An ECG is the most specific tool for determining the size of each cardiac chamber and is very in determining a cause for 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.