Using an Echocardiogram to Diagnose Heart Conditions

Posted In: Feline Health & Wellness, Canine Health & Wellness

An echocardiogram is the best way to diagnose heart disease in dogs and cats, and our veterinarians can provide this service at both AMCMA locations. Echocardiograms are a non-invasive, painless process that allows our doctors to view images of your pet’s heart in real-time and enables us to provide a quick diagnosis. Often, an echocardiogram referral to a specialty hospital takes days or even weeks for your pet to be seen and to receive a diagnosis. At AMCMA, we can provide diagnosis right away and start necessary treatment immediately.

What exactly is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. It uses ultrasound waves to create images that allow the veterinarian to evaluate the heart size, valve function, and heart strength. It is considered the most accurate test for diagnosing heart disease in dogs and cats.

What conditions does an Echocardiogram detect?
Heart disease is common among dogs and cats. Rhythm problems and a weak heart muscle are common in large breed dogs, while smaller dogs tend to have more heart valve problems. About 15% of cats develop heart problems, and usually this occurs as disease of the heart muscle. An echocardiogram can detect heart disease, birth defects, diseases of the heart valves, cardiac tumors, and fluid around the heart.

How does it work?
Echocardiography uses high-frequency sound to create an image of the heart. The machine’s small, handheld probe is placed on the pet’s chest. It delivers the sound waves through the body to the heart muscle and valves. The image created from the sound waves gives the veterinarian a view of the heart chambers, how much they contract, the valves that separate the chambers, and the vessels coming from the heart.

What are signs there is something wrong with my pet’s heart?
It can take time for symptoms of heart disease to develop, and you may not even notice signs of heart disease at first. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog shows any of these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath (abnormal breathing with effort)
  • Dry cough after physical activity
  • Cough that increases at night
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting

Signs of heart disease in cats can include:

  • Shortness of breath (abnormal breathing with effort)
  • Rapid breathing when your cat is inactive
  • Lethargy
  • Sudden paralysis in the back legs
  • Coughing
  • Fainting

The Animal Medical Center of Mid-America has veterinarians at three locations that can answer questions about your pet’s health. Call 314-951-1534 or click here to request an appointment online.