In this post, our Stuart 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 test that is used to monitor the heart of 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 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 check the wave's shape and measure the distance between the various parts of the wave. Frequently, the information provided by the P-Wave and the QRS complex interval is of concern. These indicate 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.
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 just a few of the obvious abnormalities that may require an ECF. These are frequently signs of diastolic dysfunction in dogs and cats, and an ECG is always recommended when this occurs.
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.
Heart disease is heritably predisposed in many dog and cat breeds. Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Boxer, and Cocker Spaniel are a few examples of dog breeds. Breeds of cats include some American Shorthairs, Persians, and Maine Coons.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes
Cardiomegaly seen on radiographs may be brought on by patient variability, cardiac enlargement, or pericardial fat accumulation. The most accurate method for measuring the dimensions of each cardiac chamber is an ECG, which is also useful for identifying the root of radiographic cardiomegaly.
Cats can present as particularly difficult cardiology patients because they may have severe cardiomyopathy or other heart conditions despite exhibiting no outward symptoms. For cats, an ECG is frequently the only appropriate diagnostic procedure that is both specific and sensitive.
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 and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.