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ECG: Electrocardiogram in Dogs

An ECG measures the electrical impulses of the heart in dogs.

An electrocardiogram (also called an ECG or EKG) is a test done on dogs to record the electrical activity of the heart so it can be evaluated for abnormalities, especially arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). ECG can help diagnose or monitor certain conditions in dogs.

How Is a Canine ECG Performed?

An ECG is a safe, non-invasive procedure. The dog is placed and held comfortably on her side, and electrodes are attached to the dog's legs and chest. Then, a machine records the electrical impulses of the heart and prints out a reading. Unless the dog is aggressive for some reason, anesthesia is not required to perform an ECG.

When Are ECGs Done on Dogs?

Several situations occur in veterinary medicine during which a vet may wish to perform an ECG. These include:

  • An ECG is done on a dog when a veterinarian suspects a problem with the heart rhythm.
  • Some veterinary clinics perform a constant ECG during surgeries to help with monitoring a dog's response to anesthesia, so they can intervene if a problem becomes apparent.
  • If a heart murmur is detected when a veterinarian listens to a dog's heart with a stethoscope, an ECG may be performed as part of the diagnosis of what's causing the murmur.
  • If the dog has a problem like syncope (fainting), such as during the condition called boxer cardiomyopathy, an ECG may be done.

How Are ECGs Read?

Some veterinarians have enough experience with ECGs to interpret them in their general veterinary clinic. Others send the recordings to a cardiologist for interpretation.

ECGs can be normal even when a heart problem exists. That's because sometimes the problem doesn't manifest in the short time the ECG leads are attached.

There can be normal variations on ECGs that look like abnormal readings, so ECGs must be interpreted in conjunction with other test and physical exam results.

What Is a Holter Monitor?

A Holter monitor is a way of recording electrical impulses from the heart for a period of time, such as 24 hours or over a weekend. This can be an excellent way to catch abnormalities that only occur every so often.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Heart Disease in Dogs

Hypovolemic Shock in Dogs

Congestive Heart Failure: CHF in Dogs

Boxer Cardiomyopathy: Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy


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