Diagnostic tests allow your vet to determine the cause of certain symptoms your dog or cat may have. Here, our Madison vets share information about diagnosing heart conditions in your cat or dog using an ECG and how it can help monitor your pet's health.

What is an ECG used for?

When we say ECG, we are referring to an electrocardiogram or EKG. This diagnostic test will monitor your pet's heart and diagnose potential concerns. This is done with little sensors attached to the skin to monitor electrical activity to represent what the heart is doing.

This non-invasive test is performed on your pet in our veterinary diagnostic laboratory, allowing us to check for issues safely while keeping them comfortable.

What do vets learn from ECGs for pets?

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 an ECG shows is the heart rate and rhythm.  It also gives them an understanding of the electrical impulses going through each section of the heart.

A typical ECG consists of a pattern: a small bump that rises, called the P-wave, then a large spike upward, called the QRS complex, and the next smaller 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. This is the typical 'heartbeat.' The appearance of the T-wave shows that the heart is repolarizing.

Your vet will ensure the wave's shape is correct and measure the distance between its 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. For a regular heartbeat, the distance between the spikes will be identical.  If the spikes are more frequent, infrequent or identical, your pet will have an irregular heartbeat.

What is the range for a normal cat or dog ECG?

Each animal will have a normal heart rate, which varies among 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.

Are ECGs considered safe for pets?

Yes, feline and canine ECG tests are safe. ECG is a non-invasive diagnostic test that passively monitors the heart.

When might a vet request an ECG?

There are many different situations when our vets may recommend an ECG at our animal laboratory in Madison. Here are some of the most common reasons include:

Abnormal Cardiovascular Rhythm

Cardiac murmurs, gallop sounds, and arrhythmias (irregularities) are obvious abnormalities that may necessitate an ECF. These can often indicate diastolic (first part of the heartbeat) dysfunction, which is why an ECG is always warranted in dogs and cats with cardiac abnormalities.

Abnormal cardiovascular rhythm can be caused by intracardiac (within the heart) or extracardiac (outside of the heart) disease. ECGs help rule out primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease and determine appropriate anti-arrhythmic therapy for the individual patient.

Breed Screening

Many breeds of dogs and cats have a heritable predisposition (passed from parent to offspring) for heart disease.

  • Dog breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, and the Cocker Spaniel.
  • Cat breeds include the Maine Coon, the Persian, the Ragdoll, and some American Shorthairs.

Thoracic Radiographic Changes

Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart) 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 specific and sensitive to 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 confirm the presence of heart disease and determine the patient's therapeutic needs.

How much do ECGs cost for dogs or cats?

The cost of this or any other diagnostic test will vary depending on your pet, the clinic itself, and whether your pet has any other services or tests performed during their visit.

Diagnostic Services at Gluckstadt Animal Hospital

We provide a wide range of diagnostic services for your feline or canine companion, including digital radiology, ultrasound, and ECG at our Madison animal hospital.

We use radiographic imaging that allows us to produce highly detailed images of your pet's internal structures. With diagnostic imaging, we can efficiently produce diagnostic information about your pet's condition and provide immediate treatment options.

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.

Is your dog or cat experincing any unusual or concerning symptoms? Contact the vets at Gluckstadt Animal Hospital today. We can perform diagnostics on your dog or cat, including ultrasounds and ECGs, in our Madison laboratory.