In this post, our Rabun County 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, stands for electrocardiogram. It is a heart-monitoring test for your pet. Small sensors attached to the skin monitor electrical activity to provide a picture of how the heart is working.
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 inspect the wave's shape and measure the distance between its various parts. The information provided by the P-Wave and the QRS complex interval are frequently the source of concern. These indicate how quickly the heart takes in blood and pumps it out.
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 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.
Many dog and cat breeds have a genetic predisposition to heart disease. To name a few, dog breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, and the Cocker Spaniel. Maine Coons, Persians, Ragdolls, and some American Shorthairs are cat breeds.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes
Cardiomegaly can be caused by cardiac enlargement, pericardial fat accumulation, and/or patient variability, as seen on radiographs. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is the most specific tool for determining the size of each cardiac chamber and is very useful in determining the cause of radiographic cardiomegaly.
Cats can be particularly difficult for cardiology patients because they may have severe cardiomyopathy or other heart diseases despite the absence of clinical signs. For cats, an ECG is frequently the only 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 and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.