In this post, our San Gabriel vets discuss ECGs for dogs, when your vet will order one, and how to understand your dog's results.
What is an ECG?
Electrocardiogram is the medical term, but it's most commonly known as an ECG or EKG. It is a test to check the heart rate of your dog. Small sensors affixed to the skin track electrical activity to provide a picture of the heart's activity.
This is a non-invasive way of observing the heart in dogs.
What does an ECG tell your veterinarian about your dog?
An ECG tells your vet several things about your dog's heart. For one, it gives the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. It also gives them an understanding of the electrical impulses that are going through each section of the heart.
A typical ECG consists of a pattern: a small bump that rises up, called the P-wave, then a large spike upward, called the QRS complex, and then another small bump called the T-wave.
The P-wave represents the atria contracting. The QRS complex is when the ventricles depolarize, or the large contraction of the heart that is the typical 'heartbeat'. The T-wave represents the heart repolarizing.
Your veterinarian will assess the wave's shape and measure the separations between its various components. Concerns frequently center on the data the P-Wave and QRS complex interval provide. These indicate how quickly blood is being pumped and absorbed by the heart.
The next major source of information is the peaks of the QRS complex and the distance between them. If there is a constant distance between the spikes you have a regular heartbeat. If they vary, you have an irregular heartbeat.
What are normal cat and dog ECGs?
The normal rhythm for a canine ECG should be 60 to 170 beats per minute. For anyone wondering, the normal rhythm of cats should be 140 to 220 beats per minute.
Are ECGs safe?
Yes, ECG tests are safe. ECG is a non-invasive diagnostic test that passively monitors the heart.
When would a vet use an ECG?
Some examples of when a vet may order an ECG are:
Abnormal Cardiovascular Rhythm
Cardiac murmurs, gallop sounds, and arrhythmias are some obvious abnormalities that may necessitate an ECF. These can often be an indication of diastolic dysfunction and an ECG is always warranted when this occurs in dogs and cats.
An ECG aids in the exclusion of primary cardiomyopathy and/or infiltrative cardiac disease. ECGs can be brought on by intracardiac or extracardiac disease. A patient's specific anti-arrhythmic therapy can be chosen with the aid of the ECG.
Many breeds of dogs have a heritable predisposition for heart disease. Dog breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, and the Cocker Spaniel, just to name a few.
Thoracic Radiographic Changes
Cardiomegaly seen on radiographs may result from patient variability, pericardial fat deposition, or cardiac enlargement. The most accurate method for figuring out each cardiac chamber's size and the root of radiographic cardiomegaly is an ECG.
How much is an ECG for a dog?
It's always best to contact your vet directly if you're curious about the cost. They should be able to provide you with an accurate estimate.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding dogs. For an accurate diagnosis of your dog's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.