When it comes to your pet living a happy, healthy life veterinary technology and diagnostics can help. In this post, our Thornton vets share some information about diagnosing your pet with an ECG and how it can help monitor the health of your cat or dog.
What is an ECG and what does it do?
When we speak of an ECG or EKG, we are referring to an electrocardiogram. This diagnostic test will be used for monitoring your pet's heart and diagnosing any potential concerns. Little sensors attached to the skin monitor electrical activity to give a representation of what the heart is doing.
This test is non-invasive, allowing us to check for issues safely while keeping your cat or dog comfortable.
What can your vet learn about your pet using an ECG?
By performing an ECG, your vet will be able to note many different things about the health of your pet's heart. The main thing that an ECG shows is both the heart rate and rhythm. 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 the next smaller bump is referred to as 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 appearance of the T-wave shows that the heart is repolarizing.
Your vet will make sure the shape of the wave is correct, and also measure the distance between the various parts of the wave. Often, the concerns are the information provided by the P-Wave and the QRS complex interval. These tell how fast the heart is taking in blood and how fast it is pumping it.
The next major source of information is the peaks of the QRS complex and the distance between them. For a regular heartbeat, the distance between the spikes will be identical. If the spikes are more frequent, infrequent or otherwise unidentical then your pet will have an irregular heartbeat.
What is the normal heart rate for a dog or cat?
Each animal will have a normal heart rate which varies between each species. The normal heart rates for dogs and cats are as follows:
Dog: The normal rhythm for a canine is typically 60 to 170 beats per minute.
Cat: The normal rhythm of felines should be 140 to 220 beats per minute.
Is it safe for my pet to have an ECG?
Yes, ECG tests are safe. ECG is a non-invasive diagnostic test that passively monitors the heart.
What are some circumstances that an ECG would be used?
There are many different situations when a vet may recommend an ECG. Here are some of the most common reasons for an ECG:
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 intracardiac or extracardiac disease, and an ECG helps rule out primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease. The ECG 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.
Dog breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, and the Cocker Spaniel, just to name a few.
Cat breeds include the Maine Coon, the Persian, the Ragdoll, and some American Shorthairs
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.
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.
Some types of cats, such as Purebreds have a higher risk of heart disease, therefore your vet may be more likely to recommend an ECG if your feline friend falls into this category. This will help to confirm the presence of heart disease and determine the therapeutic needs of the patient.
What is the cost of having an ECG?
When it comes to the cost of this or any other diagnostic test, the total amount will vary based on your pet, the clinic itself and if your pet has any other services or tests performed during their visit.
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.