ECGs for Cats & Dogs
An ECG, or as it is sometimes called an EKG, stands for electrocardiogram. This is a test that is used to monitor the heart. Little sensors are attached to the skin and they monitor electrical activity to give a representation of what the heart is doing. This is a non-invasive way of observing the heart in pets and people.
Are ECG Safe
Yes, ECG tests are safe. ECGs are 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
Cardiac murmurs, gallop sounds, and arrhythmias are some obvious physical exam abnormalities that are clear indications for an echocardiogram. This can often be an indication of diastolic dysfunction and an echocardiogram is always warranted when this occurs in dogs and cats.
Arrhythmias can be caused by intracardiac or extracardiac disease. An echocardiogram helps rule out primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease that may explain the arrhythmia. The echocardiogram also helps to determine appropriate anti-arrhythmic therapy for the individual patient.
Many breeds of dogs and cats have a heritable predisposition for heart disease. In some cases, auscultation by a board-certified cardiologist is indicated to rule out the presence of a murmur. If a murmur is auscultated, then an echo is indicated for a complete evaluation. In some breeds, however, an echo is always indicated to screen for heart disease.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes
Cardiomegaly noted on radiographs can be due to cardiac enlargement, pericardial fat accumulation, and/or patient variability. An echocardiogram is the most specific tool for determining the size of each cardiac chamber and is a very useful tool in delineating a cause for radiographic cardiomegaly. The echocardiogram is highly specific and sensitive for congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.
Cats can be particularly challenging cardiology patients because they can have severe cardiomyopathy despite the absence of physical exam abnormalities, radiographic changes, and/or clinical signs. An echocardiogram is often the only appropriate diagnostic test that is both specific and sensitive for heart disease in cats.
Purebred cats have a higher incidence of heart disease, and therefore echocardiographic evaluation is often high yield in these patients. If this test results in suspected heart disease, an echocardiogram is recommended in these patients to confirm the presence of heart disease and determine the therapeutic needs of the patient.
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.