Cardiology Service Details

To learn more about any of the services below, simply select the topic to reveal more information.

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Digital radiography is a form of x-ray imaging, where digital x-ray sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film. Advantages of digital radiology include increased time efficiency through eliminating chemical processing and the ability to digitally transfer, immediately preview the image, and enhance images. Additionally, it allows us the ability to easily copy the images for your referring veterinarian. Digital Radiography is essentially filmless X-ray image capture.
The evaluation of the systemic blood pressure is an important measurement in many of our patients with cardiovascular disease.  A blood pressure that is either too high or too low can be problematic for our patients.  Blood pressure measurements are performed in a similar manner to human medicine.  A Doppler crystal is placed over an artery in a leg and a cuff is inflated above the crystal.  The cuff is deflated until the arterial pulse can be heard and that is considered the systolic blood pressure.  Blood pressures that are too high consistently need to be managed with medication.
Echocardiography is the study of the heart using ultrasound technology. It is a non-invasive test that allows for a real time evaluation of cardiac structure and function. To perform this test the patient is laying on their side on a specially designed table that allows the heart to be imaged from below the patient. Usually the patient does not need to be shaved for this study. Alcohol and conducting gel are used to create adequate contact with the chest wall. An ultrasound probe is used to acquire these real time images. The veterinary cardiologist acquires the images, interprets the images, allowing for immediate results for the owners. Many of our medical management recommendations are based on this non-invasive imaging modality. We routinely perform 2 dimensional imaging, m-mode measurements, color and spectral Doppler on all of our patients.

Color and spectral Doppler are imaging modalities used during an echocardiographic study of the heart. Color Doppler color encodes the red blood cells allowing us to detect direction and velocity of blood flow. This allows us to determine abnormal flow patterns in the heart (like a leakage of blood through a valve). Spectral Doppler measures the velocity of blood flow. This has many applications in determining if the blood flow is moving at an appropriate velocity. It also assists in determining the severity of some lesions.

Our fluoroscopy unit allow for real time radiographic images. We utilize this technology during diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Diagnostics include tracheal studies to determine if there are abnormalities with the trachea during a real time study as well as esophageal studies to observe a patients esophageal function while swallowing. Predominantly we use fluoroscopy for therapeutic procedures for the heart. These include pacemaker implantation, device closure of a congenital heart defect called a patent ductus arteriosus and balloon dilation of a malformed valve called a pulmonic stenosis as well as other less common procedures.
Holter monitors: This monitoring device allows for us to acquire a 24-48 hour continous ECG. This ECG is analyzed in house for evidence of arrhythmias. Monitoring the rhythm for a 24 hour period is very important in determining if a patient needs therapy (antiarrhythmic medication or pacemaker implantation) and for monitoring the response to medical management. A Holter is placed by shaving hair on both sides of the chest. Sticky patches hold the electrodes in place. A vest is placed on the dog and the Holter device is held in a pouch on the top of the vest. The patient can go about normal activities while wearing a Holter (except for swimming or playing with other dogs as the other dog may chew the electrode). The owner is given a diary to record the activities of the day so that heart rate fluctuations noted in the Holter can be correlated to activity level.

Event monitor: These monitoring devices are used for patients that are having less frequent episodes and therefore the rhythm disturbance is not recorded on a Holter monitor. The placement of the device is similar to the Holter but it is worn for a longer period of time (1-2 weeks). There is an event button on the device so that the owner can activate the device during an event. That activation records the ECG before, during and after the activation. That ECG can be evaluated to determine if the event is caused by an arrhythmia.

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Your pet has been diagnosed with a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). This vessel is present in fetal life so that blood can bypass the yet functioning lungs. Once exposed to oxygen after birth, this vessel should close. In your pet this closure did not occur.

In order for you to understand how this disease may affect your pet, it is important to understand how blood travels through the heart. The venous blood from the body drains into the right atrium, through the tricuspid valve, and into the right ventricle. The right ventricle then pumps this un-oxygenated blood to the lungs through the pulmonic valve into the pulmonary artery. Moving through capillaries, the blood picks up oxygen from the lungs. This blood then drains through large pulmonary veins into the left atrium, through the mitral valve and into the left ventricle where it is pumped through the aorta and back to the body.

In your pet’s case the open vessel (the PDA) causes a portion of the blood from the aorta to shunt to the pulmonary artery though the lungs and back to the left side of the heart. This causes overcirculation of the lungs and left heart.

This overcirculation causes the left heart to dilate over time and increases the pressures in the left heart over time. The increase in pressure in the left heart and the pulmonary veins (the vessels that drain into the left heart from the lungs) eventually causes fluid to exude into the lungs which is a condition called congestive heart failure. Symptoms of congestive heart failure include trouble breathing, coughing, and exercise intolerance. Untreated, it is fatal.

The good news is that this condition is repairable with an interventional or surgical procedure. If repair occurs early in life and is successful, your pet will have a normal life expectancy and quality of life. Most pets with this condition are candidates for interventional occlusion of the defect. This consists of anesthetizing your pet and placing a catheter into the femoral artery to deploy a device in the defect. The device then prohibits blood from crossing the defect. If your pet is too small or the defect is of a shape that is not amendable to interventional repair, surgical closure can be performed.

Occasionally the pressures in the lungs are high with this defect. If the pressures are high in the lungs it may prohibit closure of the defect. If this condition is present in your pet we will discuss therapeutic measures that can be performed.

When a patient is hospitalized that has a cardiac rhythm disturbance, telemetry allows us to continuously monitor their ECG while they are laying comfortably in their cage.  The telemetry is place by shaving small patches of hair for sticky patches to hold the electrodes to their chest.  The electrodes feed into a device that send the ECG to a screen in our CCU unit as well as our cardiology room.  This allows us to continuously monitor the rhythm of the patient.  In addition, the ECG is stored so that it can be reviewed at any time.  The technology allows us to not only continuously monitor the ECG, but also to make quick treatment decisions that are in the best interest of the patient.
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