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ECG for Cats & Dogs

As pet owners, we want the best for our furry friends, including proper veterinary care. ECGs are crucial for pets, particularly dogs and cats. Knowing when an ECG is necessary, what it involves, and the associated costs can help you make informed decisions about your pet's health.

What is an ECG for pets?

An electrocardiogram (ECG) measures the electrical activity of the heart. It’s a common diagnostic tool used in human and veterinary medicine to assess heart function and detect abnormalities. For pets, including canines and felines, an ECG can provide critical insights into their cardiac health.

What does an ECG tell your veterinarian about your pet?

An ECG tells your vet several things about your pet's heart. It gives the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat and explains 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 vet will ensure the wave's shape is correct and measure the distance between its various parts. 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 pumping it.

The next major source of information is the peaks of the QRS complex and the distance between them. You have a regular heartbeat if the distance between the spikes is constant. If it varies, you have an irregular heartbeat.

What are normal cat and dog ECGs?

A normal ECG for dogs (normal dog ECG) and cats (normal cat ECG) displays a specific pattern of electrical activity in the heart. This pattern includes P waves, QRS complexes, and T waves, which correspond to the heart's electrical cycle phases. In a normal dog ECG, the heart rate should be between 60-160 beats per minute, depending on the dog's size and activity level. For cats, a normal ECG will show a heart rate between 120-220 beats per minute.

Veterinarians interpret these patterns to determine if the heart's electrical activity is normal or if there are signs of arrhythmias, heart block, or other abnormalities.

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 clear indications that may require an ECG. These may indicate diastolic dysfunction, and it is always necessary to perform an ECG when these symptoms occur in dogs and cats.

ECGs can result from intracardiac or extracardiac diseases, and they can help rule out primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease. Additionally, they can assist in determining the appropriate anti-arrhythmic therapy for each patient.

Breed Predisposition

Many breeds of dogs and cats have a heritable predisposition for heart conditions. Dog breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, and the Cocker Spaniel, 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 each cardiac chamber's size and is very important in determining a cause for radiographic cardiomegaly.

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.

Pre-Anesthiec Evaluation 

Before undergoing surgery, pets may need an ECG to ensure their hearts can handle anesthesia. 

How much is an ECG for a dog or cat?

The cost of an ECG for a dog can vary widely based on factors such as the location, the pricing of the veterinary clinic, and whether the ECG is part of a larger diagnostic workup. Please contact your vet for an accurate estimate.

ECG for Pets

An ECG is a valuable tool in veterinary medicine, offering insights into your pet's heart health. Whether for diagnosing symptoms, pre-anesthetic evaluation, or routine monitoring, understanding when and why an ECG is needed can help you provide the best care for your dog or cat. By knowing what a normal ECG looks like and being aware of the costs involved, you can make informed decisions and ensure your pet's heart is in good hands.

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.

Are you concerned your dog or cat might need an ECG? Our Meadow Vista animal hospital offers ECGs for pets. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

Meadow Vista Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients including dogs, cats and large animals. Get in touch today to book your first appointment.

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