Cardiology is the study of the heart, which indirectly includes the study of blood vessels, blood flow and the lungs. A complete veterinary cardiology work-up includes a detailed physical exam, blood pressure monitoring, EKG (electrocardiogram), chest x-rays, echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) and a consult by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.
There are no board certified veterinary cardiologists in Routt county, so Pet Kare Clinic strives to provide as much of the complete cardiology work-up as possible. When your pet has an annual physical exam, we listen to the heart and lungs, assess the color of the gums and feel the pulse quality. If there are any abnormalities or concerns noted during the physical exam, additional work-up that Pet Kare Clinic can provide includes an EKG, chest x-rays and blood pressure monitoring.
We are also very proud about our upcoming echocardiogram capabilities. Dr. Kim is currently enrolling in ultrasound certification courses, and will be offering echocardiograms in the fall, 2008. An echocardiogram allows us to look at each chamber of the heart, the valves, the blood flow through the heart and the pressures within each chamber of the heart. This collectively tells us information about the function of the heart, which usually explains why we are hearing heart murmurs or noting other abnormal clinical signs in your pet.
Heart disease can negatively affect the quality of your pet’s life, and therefore it is very important to monitor the heart and lung sounds via an annual exam. Heart disease can be caused by genetics, bacterial infections, heartworm disease and toxins. In addition, heart disease can develop secondary to a congenital abnormality (a defect that your pet is born with), thus it is important to monitor the heart and lungs in puppies as well as ageing dogs.
There are many heart medications that can drastically improve your pet’s quality of life, and even slow down the progression of heart disease if we start them early on. Clinical signs of heart disease include shortness of breath, coughing, exercise intolerance and fainting episodes that are often mistaken as seizures. However, many of our pets are very stoic, and they don’t show us that they are having problems or discomfort until the disease has seriously progressed. Therefore, the best way to help your pet and catch these heart diseases early is an annual exam with your veterinarian!
Here are some links to handouts describing some of the more common heart diseases that we see in dogs and cats: