Our veterinary team uses diagnostic tests to help monitor and diagnose illnesses in pets including cardiovascular diseases. Here, our vets in Rochester talk about what ECGs can show us about your pet's health, how they are performed and what your dog or cat's results mean.

What are ECGs for pets?

The term ECG stands for electrocardiogram, a heart-monitoring test that uses small sensors attached to the skin to observe the heart's electrical activity. This non-invasive method is used for both pets and humans.

What do ECGs show us about your dog or cat's health?

When your pet undergoes a feline or canine ECG, your vet gains valuable insight about their heart. This diagnostic tool reveals the heart's rate, rhythm, and electrical impulses within each section. The ECG pattern typically includes a small bump called the P wave, a large spike known as the QRS complex, and another small bump called the T wave.

The P wave represents atrial contractions, the QRS complex indicates ventricular depolarization (the typical heartbeat), and the T wave represents ventricular repolarization. The vet will pay close attention to the wave shape and distance between the various parts of the wave, with particular concern for the PR interval and QRS complex interval, which indicates how efficiently the heart is pumping blood.

Additionally, the vet will examine the distance between the peaks of the QRS complex to determine whether the heartbeat is regular or irregular. Finally, the number of QRS complexes over a certain time interval can be used to calculate the heart rate. It's important to note that the rate and rhythm of cats and dogs can vary, so consult your veterinarian to determine what values are expected for your pet.

Are ECGs safe?

Absolutely! ECG tests are completely safe and non-invasive. They passively monitor the heart and provide valuable diagnostic information.

When are ECGs performed on pets?

If your vet has noticed any signs that indicate potential heart disease during a routine exam they may choose to perform an ECG. These may include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart murmur (which indicates turbulent blood flow over a valve within the heart)
  • Irregular pulses
  • Abnormal lung sounds

How long do ECGs take?

The ECG itself only takes a few minutes to complete along with additional time needed to prepare and to review the results.

Can my pet eat before an ECG?

The good news is that your dog or cat will be able to eat and drink normally leading up to their ECG.

Will anesthesia be used for my pet's ECG?

Anesthesia is commonly used for procedures where your dog or cat should remain still or to prevent pain, such as with surgery.

Because ECGs only take a few minutes and don't involve taking detailed images, they are usually performed without the use of anesthesia.

Canine & Feline ECGs for Pre-Anesthetic Evaluation

It can be beneficial to have a thorough comprehension of a dog or cat's cardiovascular health before administering anesthesia. An ECG can help with this. This test will help to determine how safe it may be and if your pet has any conditions that might increase the risk of complications.

What are considered normal cat or dog ECG results?

You may be wondering what a normal canine or feline ECG is. Overall, this depends on the type of pet you have. The normal heart rates for dogs and cats are as follows:

Dog: The normal rhythm for a canine is typically 60 to 170 beats per minute.

Cat: The normal rhythm of felines should be 140 to 220 beats per minute.

How much is an ECG for a dog or cat?

As with many other veterinary care services, the cost of your dog or cat's ECG will vary from clinic to clinic and from pet to pet. This is because several different factors contribute to the final cost.

This can be the location of the clinic and the expertise of the practitioner, the type of equipment used, and any additional tests required. The age and species of your pet also play a role in the final amount that you will pay.

Your vet will be able to provide you with an accurate estimate for the expected cost of your pet's diagnostic testing.

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.

If your pet is showing signs of heart issues or any other possible illness or condition, contact our Rochester veterinary hospital to schedule an examination.