Michelle Rose, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology), and Robert George, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology) are our board-certified veterinary cardiologists. They are dedicated to diagnosing, managing, and treating disorders of the heart and cardiovascular system.

Our Cardiology Department sees dogs, cats, and exotic pets that are referred because their primary veterinarians either suspect that these pets might have heart disease, or have already confirmed that they have heart disease and are seeking to optimize their therapy.

Our number one priority is that our patients have a good quality of life at home, for as long as possible.

Another common reason that pets are referred to Cardiology is that their primary veterinarians detected a heart murmur (“whooshing” sound) or an arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm) on their physical exam prior to having anesthesia performed for a dental or surgery. Understandably, both the pet owner and veterinarian will wish to know what the animal’s risk of experiencing heart complications is during the anesthesia. While there is no test that will always answer this question with 100% accuracy, the many tools available to cardiologists – echocardiography, electrocardiography, Holter monitors, and blood tests (see below) – will reveal an enormous amount of information about how safe it is to go ahead with the planned procedure.

Sometimes no medications are needed, and careful planning and extra vigilance during anesthesia are all that is required. Other times, the pet may need to be treated first to improve the cardiovascular system and help it become strong enough to withstand anesthesia. Infrequently, the advice given will be to not place the pet under anesthesia, as the risk is not worth the potential benefit.

Acquired heart disease (middle-age to late-onset) is one of the most common disorders affecting companion animals, but most pet owners are unaware that there is a problem early on. Dogs and cats with leaking heart valves, weak or abnormal heart muscle, or irregular heartbeats often act completely normal for months to years before they start to show clinical signs. The only abnormality detected might be on the pet’s physical exam by its primary veterinarian. Early detection can make a huge and important difference in the pet’s prognosis.

Some of the clinical signs of advanced heart disease are as follows:
• Coughing
• Labored breathing
• Rapid breathing
• Exercise intolerance, weakness
• Lethargy
• Poor appetite
• Weight loss
• Fainting or Collapse
• Swollen abdomen

Our Cardiology Department performs the following specialized procedures:

Echocardiography – A complete ultrasound study of the heart, evaluating the four heart valves; strength and thickness of the heart muscle; the pericardium; the great veins and arteries; and the diastolic (filling) and systolic (pumping) function of the heart. An echocardiogram can also identify cardiac tumors, as well as both congenital and acquired heart disease. 98% of our echocardiograms are performed with the pet awake (i.e. not sedated), as this is a noninvasive and painless test. If your pet is extremely anxious and you would prefer mild sedation, this is easily accommodated for.

Electrocardiography (ECG) – The electrical activity of the heart is evaluated from 6-12 different angles to determine whether an arrhythmia (irregularity of the heart’s rhythm) exists, and how benign or malignant the arrhythmia is.

Holter monitors – see video!  These special monitors record the heart’s electrical activity for up to 96 hours at a time, storing every single heart beat digitally so that the heart rhythms can be evaluated closely at the conclusion of the study. Holter monitors are considered a “walking ECG” – the pet’s heart rate can be evaluated while sleeping, running, barking, eating, etc. A button can be pushed by the pet owner to mark when an unusual activity occurs, such as fainting.

Blood tests – Various blood tests are available (NT-proBNP, cardiac troponin I) to help stage and prognosticate heart disease. Other tests, such as taurine, can document a nutritional deficiency within the heart muscle.

Blood pressure – Cardiology technicians are often the best in the business at obtaining accurate blood pressures. Blood pressure is known to vary based on the stress level of the patient, time elapsed since medications were administered, and method used to obtain the blood pressure.

What is the difference between a board-certified cardiologist and a traveling ultrasonographer?

Board-certified cardiologists have completed four years of veterinary school, a one-year internship, and three years of a cardiology residency under the supervision of other boarded cardiologists. They are required to pass two national board exams at the end of their second and third years of residency training. They also receive specialized training in the management of cardiac disease, and are familiar and comfortable with multimodal treatment protocols that optimize the patient’s quality of life. They are highly proficient in echocardiography, and use advanced imaging modalities such as color-flow Doppler, spectral Doppler, and tissue Doppler to best diagnose a pet’s type and stage of heart disease.

Because cardiologists only see and treat heart disease all day long, they are required to be familiar with the most current veterinary literature and treatment protocols.

Cardiology services are available Monday through Friday at our Oakdale location. In some cases, our cardiologists can travel to your veterinary clinic with a portable echocardiogram.

If your pet has heart-related problems or disease, call us at (651) 501-3766 today, or ask your family veterinarian for a referral.