An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. Much like an abdominal ultrasound, it is a non-invasive imaging diagnostic that allows us to assess the heart size, shape and function using high frequency ultrasound waves. During an echocardiogram, we assess the 4 chambers of the heart, the heart valves, the major blood vessels, and the surrounding structures such as the pericardial sac. Doppler is non-invasive ultrasound test which allows us to assess the heart blood flow patterns.
At Petsadena Animal Hospital, we are excited to offer the ability to perform an echocardiogram. All of the heart images and measurements obtained while performing the echocardiogram are sent to a board-certified Cardiologist (heart specialist) for evaluation and the specialist provides us with a full report that includes medical recommendations.
A veterinarian may recommend an echocardiogram if they hear a heart murmur (abnormal heart sound) or arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) on examination. They may also recommend an echocardiogram if x-rays of a pet’s chest show signs of an abnormal heart or if the pet is experiencing clinical signs commonly associated with heart disease. A heart murmur is caused by turbulent blood flow which is typically associated with a leaking heart valve, a narrow major blood vessel, or a defect in the wall of the heart. A heart murmur is often one of the first exam findings that are noted in a pet with heart disease. As a result, an echocardiogram is often recommended to confirm the cause of the heart murmur as well as to assess the heart function.
Unlike an abdominal ultrasound, a pet having an echocardiogram performed does not require special preparation the day before the procedure is done. That being said, they do require having a small area on both sides of the chest clipped prior to performing the echocardiogram. Depending on the pet’s health and temperament, a sedative may be given to allow us to obtain better diagnostic images especially in pets who have a hard time staying still. Pets who have an echocardiogram performed are always discharged the same day of the procedure.