An echocardiogram (or echo) is an ultrasound of the heart. This procedure is one of the least invasive and best ways to take a much closer look at the structures of the heart and to watch how the heart functions in real-time. The most common reason we schedule an echo is if your pet has a heart murmur.
The heart is made up of four chambers, each of which is separated by a valve. These valves close at the right time to keep blood flowing in the right direction. With an echocardiogram, we are able to see whether the walls of the heart are thickened if the chambers of the heart are enlarged, and whether the valves of the heart are working properly. We can also see whether the blood pressure in the vessels going to and from the heart is what it should be.
For your pet’s echocardiogram, we will shave a small area of hair on both sides of their chest so the ultrasound probe can have better contact with the skin. Your pet will lay on his or her side on a comfortable, padded table. Most pets are just fine laying on their side for the time it takes to get the necessary images, but some pets who are more nervous may get light sedation. For this reason, we recommend that you fast your pet overnight.
Along with the echocardiogram, we can also perform an EKG, which lets us make sure there aren’t any arrhythmias (abnormal patterns to the way the heartbeats). Finally, for pets who might be in heart failure, we may also recommend taking chest x-rays to look for any fluid build-up in the lungs.
Once we have obtained the images we need of the heart, as well as the EKG and chest X-rays, if indicated, we send everything to a board-certified cardiologist for interpretation. We generally have results for you within approximately 24 hours, at which time we will call to discuss the results and any further recommendations. If necessary, we can STAT the echocardiogram study for an additional fee so that we get results within approximately 2 hours.
We perform echocardiograms on patients 2 years of age and older. If you think your pet could benefit from an echocardiogram or if you have any other questions about this procedure, please don’t hesitate to contact us!