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ECG for Cats & Dogs

In this post, our Des Moines 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, is an abbreviation for electrocardiogram. It is a heart-monitoring test for your pet. Small sensors attached to the skin monitor electrical activity to provide an image of what the heart is doing.

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 pet'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 is when the ventricles depolarize, or the large contraction of the heart that is the typical 'heartbeat'. The T-wave represents the heart repolarizing.

Your veterinarian will check the wave shape and measure the distance between the various parts of the wave. The information provided by the P-Wave and the QRS complex interval are frequently the source of concern. These indicate how quickly the heart absorbs 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.

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 some obvious abnormalities that may necessitate an ECF. These can often be an indication of diastolic dysfunction and an ECG is always warranted when this occurs in dogs and cats.

ECGs can be caused by either intracardiac or extracardiac disease, and an ECG can help rule out primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease. The ECG also aids in determining the most appropriate antiarrhythmic therapy for the individual patient.

Breed Screening

Many dog and cat breeds have a genetic predisposition to heart disease. To name a few, dog breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Boxer, and Cocker Spaniel. Maine Coons, Persians, Ragdolls, and some American Shorthairs are among the cat breeds.

Thoracic Radiographic Changes

Cardiomegaly on radiographs can be due to cardiac enlargement, pericardial fat accumulation, and/or patient variability. An ECG is the most accurate tool for determining the size of each cardiac chamber and is crucial in determining the cause of radiographic cardiomegaly.

Feline Echocardiography

Cats can be particularly difficult cardiology patients because they can have severe cardiomyopathy or other heart diseases despite the absence of clinical symptoms. For cats, an ECG is frequently the only appropriate diagnostic test that is both specific and sensitive.

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.

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. Des Moines Veterinary Hospital does not offer ECGs at this time.

Are you concerned your dog or cat might need a diagnostic test to determine if there's something wrong? Our Des Moines animal hospital offers many types of tests. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Welcoming Your Pets to Our Animal Hospital 

Des Moines Veterinary Hospital welcomes cats, dogs, fish, small mammals, and their owners to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Des Moines companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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