Cardiology for Small Animals & Pets

At the Severn Edge Veterinary Group we have the ability to investigate cardiac problems using a number of non-invasive techniques. We can utilise X-rays, echocardiography (scanning with ultrasound) and electrocardiography (ECG for assessing the hearts rhythm).

Cardiac disease is one of the more common medical problems that we encounter in small animal practice. Listening to the heart with a stethoscope quickly provides valuable information about the workings of the heart. If your dog has a heart murmur, then part of the heart (often a valve) or a vessel associated with the heart has a problem. However some heart problems will not have a murmur and further investigation is often required.

We do, on occasions use x-rays – particularly if we want to examine the lungs as well, however nowadays we are using ultrasound more and more.

The use of ultrasound to diagnose heart problems is paramount to achieve an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. The high tech equipment used can show the flow of blood, the speed it travels, the workings and structure of the valves, the sizes of the chambers of the heart, and the rate and rhythm at which it beats.

Scanning the heart to visualise the valves and chamber sizes will give information about the problem – it is not always the case that this will result in medication being needed, many problems are mild enough to be just monitored only.

Some conditions will not create obvious murmurs, eg Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) – a common problem in Dobermans and Boxers in later life. Therefore these can only be sensibly assessed by regular cardiac ultrasound.

Echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound) and Colour Doppler Echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound with flow visualisation) are now both commonly used in the early detection of certain congenital problems – such as “hole in the heart” (called either an atrial or ventral septal defect).

Breeding cats of certain pedigrees (eg Bengal) are routinely tested for HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy) before they breed to minimize the risk of passing on this genetically inherited trait. Certain species of dogs are also tested for hereditary conditions eg the German Short Haired Pointer and Aortic Stenosis.

We can also use echocardiography for diagnosing other cardiac problems such as heart tumours, leaking valves and valve infections (endocardiosis)