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ECG for Cats & Dogs

In this post, our Kent vets discuss ECGs for dogs and cats, when your vet will order one and how to understand your pet's results.

What is an ECG?

An ECG, also known as an EKG, stands for electrocardiogram. It is a test for monitoring your dog or cat's heart. Small sensors attached to the skin monitor electrical activity to provide an image of the heart's activity.

This is a non-invasive way of observing the heart in pets.

What does an ECG tell your veterinarian about your pet?

An ECG tells your vet several things about your dog or cat's heart. For one, it gives the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. It also gives them an understanding of the electrical impulses that are going through each section of the heart.

A typical ECG consists of a pattern: a small bump that rises up, called the P-wave, then a large spike upward, called the QRS complex, and then another small bump called the T-wave.

The P-wave represents the atria contracting. The QRS complex occurs when the ventricles depolarize, or when the heart contracts in the typical 'heartbeat' rhythm. The T-wave represents the heart repolarizing.

Your veterinarian will inspect the wave's shape and measure the distance between its various parts. Frequently, the information provided by the P-Wave and the QRS complex interval is of concern. These show how quickly the heart takes in and pumps blood.

The next major source of information is the peaks of the QRS complex and the distance between them. If there is a constant distance between the spikes you have a regular heartbeat. If they vary, you have 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.

The ECG Procedure in Cats & Dogs

To prepare for an ECG procedure on a cat or dog, the first step is to shave the fur in the area where the electrodes will be placed. This ensures good contact between the skin and the electrodes, allowing for accurate readings. Next, the electrodes are placed on specific areas of the pet’s body, such as the chest or limbs, to capture electrical activity from the heart.

It is important to ensure that the pet is calm and still during the ECG procedure to obtain accurate results. This may involve gently restraining the cat or dog or using sedation if necessary. Keeping the pet relaxed can help prevent interference with the ECG readings and ensure a successful procedure. Additionally, it is important to minimize any external factors that could cause stress or anxiety for the animal, such as loud noises or sudden movements.

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 a few examples of obvious abnormalities that may necessitate an ECG. These are common symptoms of diastolic dysfunction in dogs and cats, and an ECG is always recommended.

ECGs can be caused by intracardiac or extracardiac disease, and an ECG can aid in the diagnosis of primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease. The ECG also aids in determining the best anti-arrhythmic therapy for each patient.

Breed Screening

Heart disease is heritable in many dog and cat breeds. Dog breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Boxer, and Cocker Spaniel. Cat breeds include American Shorthairs, Persians, and Maine Coons.

Thoracic Radiographic Changes

Radiographs may show cardiomegaly due to patient variability, cardiac enlargement, or pericardial fat accumulation. An ECG is the most accurate method for measuring the dimensions of each cardiac chamber, and it is also useful for determining the cause of radiographic cardiomegaly.

Feline Echocardiography

Cats can be particularly challenging cardiology patients because they may have severe cardiomyopathy or other heart conditions despite showing no outward symptoms. For cats, an ECG is frequently the only specific and sensitive diagnostic procedure available.

As heart disease is more common in purebred cats, an ECG evaluation is frequently advised to confirm the presence of heart disease and identify the patient's therapeutic requirements.

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 only. Clover Veterinary Hospital does not offer ECGs at this time.

Have you noticed your dog or cat acting strangely? Contact our Kent animal hospital to book an appointment for your furry friend. If we conclude that your pet could benefit from an ECG, we can refer you to a veterinarian in the area that offers them.

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