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How a Pet Echocardiogram Can Help

If your veterinarian or veterinary cardiologist suspects your pet may have a heart problem, they may recommend an echocardiogram. In this post, our Long Island veterinarians discuss the purpose of this procedure, what types of problems an echocardiogram can detect, cost factors, and more.

What is a veterinary echocardiogram? 

A veterinary echocardiogram (also known as a cardiac ultrasound) is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that allows a veterinary cardiologist to assess the condition of your cat or dog's heart. It uses high-frequency sound waves to form a picture of your pet's heart. 

While having a healthy heart is just as important to our pets as it is to us, our four-legged friends can also develop health problems and abnormalities. If your cat or dog's heart is not working properly, they may become extremely ill and experience unpleasant and debilitating symptoms. A veterinary heart condition can even prove fatal, which is why early detection, diagnosis and effective cardiological treatment are key to positive outcomes. 

What is an echocardiogram used for?

A veterinary sonographer can perform an echocardiogram to examine the structure of your pet's heart visually. Important insights into your cat or dog's heart health can be revealed as a result of the procedure, including:

  • The size of the heart 
  • The thickness of the heart's walls 
  • The shape of the heart 
  • How effectively the heart is pumping 

What kinds of problems can an echocardiogram detect?

An echocardiogram can identify a range of heart problems, including but not limited to: 

  • Cardiac arrhythmias 
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart murmur
  • Congenital (present from birth) heart defects that may require treatment or special care
  • Abnormalities or damage in the valves, pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart), or other areas of the heart 
  • Abnormal blood flow
  • Potential blood clots 

Echocardiograms and other diagnostic tests are essential tools that can help your veterinary cardiologist make a life-saving diagnosis and develop an effective treatment or disease management plan for your dog or cat. 

Sometimes, a veterinary cardiologist or sonographer may also recommend a chest X-ray to check for symptoms related to heart problems. For example, fluid in your cat or dog's lungs may point to congestive heart failure. These insights allow us to develop an individualized treatment plan to correctly manage and address your cat's illness. 

How much will my pet's echocardiogram scan cost? 

The price of your pet's echocardiogram will depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Location 
  • Type of echocardiogram (some animal clinics or hospitals may use more advanced imaging techniques, which come at a higher price) 
  • Your cat or dog's overall health and size 
  • Whether any additional tests or treatments are needed

For a precise cost estimate of an echocardiogram for your cat or dog, please contact your veterinary cardiologist at the hospital where the procedure will be performed. 

Are echocardiograms safe? 

Echocardiography is minimally invasive and can be performed without pain relief medication. However, some vets or veterinary cardiologists may need to provide some sedation to keep your cat or dog completely still for the procedure, which will help improve the clarity of images and allow for more accurate assessment and diagnosis. This procedure is generally considered safe and your veterinary cardiologist can discuss any requirement for sedation with you, along with other questions or concerns you may have. 

What can I expect during my pet's echocardiogram appointment?

During your pet's echocardiogram procedure, your pet will need to lie on its side and a special ultrasound gel will be applied to its chest to allow the sound waves that produce the image of the heart to travel more efficiently. The procedure typically takes about 20 minutes. 

Your veterinary sonographer may need to shave your pet's coat to allow the transducer to make direct contact with the skin. The transducer is then placed over the skin and will send sound waves to the heart, which are translated to images on a screen. The sonographer will move the transducer around in strategic areas, so all areas of the heart can be seen and assessed. 

What will happen after my cat or dog's echocardiogram?

Following your cat or dog's echocardiogram appointment, your veterinary specialist will analyze the results, explain the diagnosis, and develop a plan to manage or treat your dog's condition. In some cases, the progression of heart disease has become easier and less expensive to manage. Heart failure is also much easier to prevent than treat with appropriate preventive veterinary care, advanced specialty and post-surgical treatment, and monitoring. 

Depending on your cat or dog's condition and which stage it has reached, your veterinary cardiologist at Atlantic Coast New York Veterinary Specialists may opt to monitor the problem, start preventive measures, or implement a treatment plan to prolong your four-legged companion's life. Treatment may include monitoring your pet's nutrition, activity, and medication, in addition to providing guidance on management, prognosis, and any actions they recommend you take at home. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have questions about your pet's upcoming diagnostic imaging appointment at Atlantic Coast New York Veterinary Specialists? Contact us. We will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

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