We may recommend your pet have a consult or echocardiogram with one of our board-certified cardiologists that visit our hospital regularly. Dr. Siemens and Dr. Russell have received extensive training, and became board-certified in diseases of the heart. One of their common procedures is an ultrasound called an echocardiogram. Cardiologists give us three kinds of information: 1) what is causing the heart problem and what the prognosis is, 2) are any medications indicated, and if so, what dose, 3) is the patient okay for anesthesia?
An ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure used to evaluate internal structures. Ultrasound applied to the heart is called an "echocardiogram". Echoes are safe and non-painful, and do not require anesthesia.
In some patients, both ultrasound and X-rays are recommended for optimal evaluation of cardiac cases. An X-ray is better at evaluating the lungs, and shows the size, shape and position of the heart and chest contents. While an echocardiogram cannot be used to examine the lungs, it has the great advantage of allowing the veterinary cardiologist to see inside the heart. The cardiologist measures chamber sizes and wall thickness, evaluates the valves, and with the Doppler portion can watch how the blood flows.
An echocardiogram is indicated when there is a suspicion of congenital or acquired heart disease. Any dog or cat with a heart murmur should have an echo. If an arrhythmia is detected, an echo is indicated. This test can be extremely useful for identifying heart birth defects, diseases of the heart valves, and heart muscle diseases (cardiomyopathy). The exam also can be used to identify fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion), cardiac tumors, and sometimes even heartworm disease.
Specialized equipment is required to perform an ultrasound exam, and the study should be performed by a veterinary cardiologist who is specially trained in the procedure. The hair on the chest may need to be clipped, but usually the hair is just wetted with alcohol, and a gel is applied to the ultrasound probe. The pet is placed on his side on a padded table and held so the chest over the heart is exposed to the examiner. The examiner places the probe on the skin between the ribs and moves it across the surface to examine the heart from different perspectives.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please don't hesitate to contact us today.