Echocardiography Echocardiography, also known as cardiac ultrasound, is the gold standard of diagnostics in veterinary cardiology. Sound waves are directed into the body using a probe. These sound waves then interact with the tissues in the body. Some of the sound waves are reflected back to the probe. By analyzing these reflected sound waves, the ultrasound machine is able to create images of the heart that are then displayed on the monitor. This allows non-invasive visualization of the heart muscle, the heart valves, and the great arteries. Echocardiography also allows us to visualize and measure the manner and speed which blood flow moves through the heart, and whether pericardial effusion (fluid within the cardiac sac) exists.
Radiography Thoracic radiography is a time-honored diagnostic tool, predating the echocardiogram. Radiographs provide an overall impression of cardiac size and shape, and most importantly, all for evaluation of the lungs. The echocardiogram has widely replaced radiographs for evaluation of cardiac size and shape. However, radiographs are still the primary way to evaluate the lungs, as the air within the lungs will interfere with the ultrasound, but not hamper radiography. Chest radiographs may be taken to determine if an animal as in congestive heart failure (i.e. if there is fluid accumulating in or around the lungs secondary to poor cardiac function). At SAVIM, digital radiography is utilized if follow up radiographs are needed to evaluate your pet, they can be performed by your primary veterinarian.
Electrocardiography The electrocardiography (ECG or EKG) is used to document the electrical activity of the heart. This allows diagnosis of abnormal cardiac rhythms (arrhythmias) in dogs and cats. If an ECG has been performed on your pet by your primary veterinarian, please bring a copy with you to your visit. If an ECG needs to be performed in the hospital, we can do that at the same time as your appointment. The ECG may be performed if an arrhythmia is present or suspected based on the pet's history, physical exam or echocardiogram.