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Cardiology Services Offered

The majority of animals with cardiac disease can be completely evaluated using non-invasive examination methods.

Cardiology consultation begins with a complete physical examination.  Canine and feline heart murmurs can often be heard and detected with a simple stethoscope. Your pet’s pulse rate, the color of his/her mucous membranes, examination for any physical evidence of fluid build-up in the abdomen or extremities are all important components of the physical examination.

Other tests that are useful in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease include:

Chest X-Rays: These images are used to assess your pet’s heart and lungs and also provide information that can help determine whether or not your pet is suffering from congestive heart failure.

6-Lead Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This test records the electrical activity of the heart and can tell whether heartbeats are normal or abnormal. An ECG has a recognizable pattern of the heart’s activity. Each point on the tracing depicts how well each specific part of the heart is performing. An ECG can provide valuable information about a suspected arrhythmia.

Cardiac Ultrasound (Echocardiogram): Echocardiography allows the visual examination of the interior of the heart, its valves, and its surrounding structures via ultrasonography. It is a sophisticated diagnostic tool, which, when combined with other components of a complete cardiac workup (history, physical examination, cardiac and pulmonary auscultation, ECG, x-rays, and other pertinent tests), can provide a complete diagnostic picture of your pet’s illness and help outline a treatment course.

Doppler Echocardiography: An advanced form of ultrasonography, this sophisticated technology can enhance the diagnostic information gained from standard two-dimensional ultrasound. Sound waves are bounced off of moving red blood cells in order to determine the movement and force of blood flow within the heart. There are three types of Doppler ultrasound: continuous wave, pulsed wave, and color flow. Each type is helpful in diagnosing and/or assessing the severity of different types of heart problems.

Holter Monitor: A Holter monitor is a portable ECG device worn by a pet which will continuously record heart rate and rhythm (often for up to 24 hours). Its extended recording period is useful for detecting heart rhythm disturbances (called arrhythmias) which would be difficult to identify in the shorter period of time provided by a standard ECG.  This information is used with other testing to determine the nature and severity of your pet’s heart disease and create the best possible treatment plan for any arrhythmias.

Pericardiocentesis: Pericardiocentesis is performed when there is fluid accumulation between the heart and the sac that surrounds the heart (the pericardium). Performance of an echocardiogram prior to pericardiocentesis is often critical in cases of pericardial effusion. Pericardial fluid highlights soft tissue masses facilitating the diagnosis of neoplasia.

Blood Pressure Monitoring: Arterial pressure is measured routinely in many patients, especially those with other medical conditions known to be associated with high blood pressure (kidney disease, thyroid or adrenal gland disease, etc.), and in patients where high blood pressure may be suspected from an echocardiogram. The technique involves an inflatable cuff placed around a limb and a monitor to detect flow in the artery within the cuff.

Cardiology Overview

Veterinary cardiologists are a small group of specialized veterinarians with expertise entirely dedicated to the heart and vascular diseases, their prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  This encompasses cardiac problems such as canine and feline congestive heart failure, hypertension, dilated and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congenital cardiac diseases, cardiac arrhythmias, and valvular disorders.  Because the function of your pet’s heart and lungs are interrelated, veterinary cardiologists are also knowledgeable about lung disease and diseases of the chest cavity. A board certified veterinary cardiologist is a licensed veterinarian who has obtained intensive, additional training in veterinary cardiology and has been certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM).

A veterinarian who has been awarded board certification by the ACVIM will list the initials, “DACVIM (Cardiology), or the word “Diplomate” of the ACVIM (Cardiology) after his or her DVM degree.   The word “Diplomate” typically means the specialist has achieved the following:

  • Obtained a traditional veterinary degree (three to four years of college followed by four years of veterinary school).
  • Completed a one year internship (in veterinary medicine and surgery) and an additional three years of advanced cardiology training (residency).  As part of their training program, veterinary cardiologists receive extensive training in a variety of diagnostic imaging techniques (including veterinary echocardiography and angiography), interventional cardiac procedures, and management of congestive heart failure and arrhythmias.
  • Following this training, the veterinary cardiologist must pass a series of examinations covering all aspects of general internal medicine and veterinary cardiology.  After completing and passing all of these rigorous requirements, the veterinarian is then recognized by peers as a board certified specialist in veterinary cardiology.

When your pet needs the care of a veterinary cardiologist, years of intensive training and additional education will be focused on helping your pet to recover and enjoy the best quality of life possible.  Most heart diseases are manageable but not curable, and they require chronic therapy.  Successful management frequently involves re-evaluation with your primary care veterinarian and a Board Certified Cardiologist.  With appropriate diagnostics, care, and follow-up, we will help your pet live a longer, happier and healthier life.

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3484 Shelby Ray Court • Charleston, SC • 29414 • Phone: 843.614.VETS(8387)