Veterinary cardiologists are veterinary specialists who solely focus on the treatment and diagnosis of diseases in the cardiovascular system. After completing vet school, they have to complete another four to five years of training and pass rigorous licensing tests prior to becoming accredited.
Reasons to Go to a Cardiologist
Veterinary cardiologists are your pet’s most reliable source for all things heart!
With their expertise, they are able to diagnose and treat a variety of congenital diseases (diseases pets are born with) and structural or progressive heart disease.
Your veterinary cardiologist will determine the location, type, and severity of heart disease by doing an echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart. This is the gold standard for diagnosing any kind of heart disease.
My Vet Said My Pet Has a Murmur. What Does That Mean?
Heart murmurs are the sound picked up by a stethoscope during a physical examination. They do not always coincide with heart disease. A heart murmur is the sound of blood moving at a certain speed. It is an abnormal “whooshing” sound, different from the “lub-dub” sound the heart typically makes.
Heart murmurs are usually staged (1-6) and do not always correlate with the severity of heart disease. It is important to note that your pet does not feel the heart murmur. It is not painful to them at all.
My Vet Diagnosed a Heart Murmur but My Pet Is Acting Normal
An echocardiogram is the only way to accurately measure the heart’s size, shape, function, and structure to tell if there is heart disease present.
When certain heart diseases are diagnosed in early stages via echocardiogram or other diagnostics, medications may be started to help significantly slow down the progression of heart disease.
What Happens During an Appointment With a Veterinary Cardiologist
During the appointment, the cardiologist will start with a physical exam. They will auscultate (listen to the heart with a stethoscope) to determine whether a murmur is present and listen for any arrhythmias (abnormal heart rate or rhythm).
The cardiologist will also check blood pressure and an ECG will monitor the electrical component of the heart. Some arrhythmias can lead to heart enlargement and can be controlled with medications.
After the physical exam, the cardiologist will use an ultrasound probe to view your dog’s heart. Sometimes a tiny patch of hair will be shaved to get the best images.
Your veterinarian will talk to you about their findings and make a treatment plan and any medications needed.
Common Signs of Heart Disease
*Please take your pet to an emergency hospital if you notice they are having difficulty breathing.
- Shortness of breath
- Elevated respiratory rate
- Coughing, especially a progressive cough or even a collapse (often worsens at night)
- Abdominal swelling due to fluid buildup
- Fainting or collapse which can be mistaken for a seizure
- Rapid, unintended weight loss
- Getting tired quickly during walks or play sessions
- Restless sleep
To find a cardiologist near you, please consult your veterinarian or use this website.