If your dog or cat has heart issues, they might require an ECG. In this blog post, our Portland veterinarians explain ECGs for pets and how to understand the results.
What is an ECG?
An electrocardiogram (ECG), also known as an electrocardiograph (EKG), is a safe and non-invasive way to check your pet's heart. By attaching small sensors to the skin, it measures the electrical activity of the heart and provides a visual representation of its functioning. This method offers a safe and effective way of observing your pet's heart without invasive procedures.
What does an ECG tell your veterinarian about your pet?
An ECG pattern has three main parts: a small bump called the P-wave, a big spike known as the QRS complex, and another small bump called the T-wave.
The P-wave signifies the contraction of the atria, while the QRS complex represents the depolarization of the ventricles, which corresponds to the characteristic heartbeat. The T-wave indicates the repolarization of the heart.
When your vet checks the ECG, they look at wave shapes and the time between them. They pay close attention to the P-wave and QRS complex time. These tell how fast the heart gets and pumps blood.
Additionally, the peaks of the QRS complex and the distance between them offer significant insights. A consistent distance between the spikes indicates a regular heartbeat, while variations suggest 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, unusual heart sounds, and irregular heartbeats clearly indicate that a dog or cat might need an electrocardiogram (ECG). These manifestations often raise concerns about diastolic dysfunction, making it essential to conduct an ECG examination in dogs and cats.
ECGs are very useful for finding both heart-related and other diseases, and they are especially good at ruling out certain heart conditions. Plus, an ECG helps the vet figure out the right treatment for heart rhythm problems in each pet.
Many dog and cat breeds can inherit a risk of heart disease. Some notable dog breeds include Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Boxers, and Cocker Spaniels. Similarly, certain cat breeds like Maine Coons, Persians, Ragdolls, and some American Shorthairs are also known to have this genetic tendency.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes Feline Echocardiography
Cats can be particularly challenging for 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.
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.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes
On X-rays, if we see an enlarged heart, it could be because the heart has grown bigger, there's excess fat around the heart, or it might just be because people's hearts vary in size naturally. To figure out which of these reasons is causing the heart to look big in the X-ray, the most accurate tool is an ECG (electrocardiogram). It helps determine the size of each part of the heart and can pinpoint the cause of the heart enlargement seen in the X-ray.
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.