Also referred to as an echocardiogram or cardiac ultrasound, an echo is a painless, non-invasive procedure that uses sound waves to take pictures of the heart in real-time as it beats to assess both its structure and function. With proper training and sufficient experience, a radiologist can create consistent images of the heart for interpretation by a board-certified cardiologist. In some cases, samples of tissue or fluid will be taken and/or tests repeated after a given period of time to monitor the progress of a condition.
A veterinarian may recommend this test when heart disease is suspected or to monitor the progression of known heart disease. Your pet may receive an echo:
- If they are experiencing symptoms like breathlessness or exercise intolerance.
- To look for the cause of a heart murmur.
- To check the size of the heart chambers.
- To check for fluid around the heart.
- To check that heart muscles are the right thickness and are pumping correctly.
To prepare for your pet’s appointment, read our Client Preparation Guide. If this procedure requires sedation and/or anesthesia, refer to our Sedation and Anesthetic Guide. We also recommend our clients become familiar with our Terms and Conditions.
For scheduled procedures, your pet must be admitted for the day.
- During admission, we will ask you to sign consent forms for the procedure and address questions you may have.
- Once admitted, a veterinarian will evaluate your pet, their medical history and lab work, and any radiographs (if applicable).
- An intravenous catheter may be placed in a leg vein for the administration of anesthetic agents. This requires hair clipping at the site. In rare circumstances, a small area on your pet’s chest may also be shaved to place a patch that monitors heart rate.
- We must clip patches of hair where the probe is placed on the skin – this allows better images to be obtained. Both sides of the chest behind the front legs will be shaved in a large square area. The skin is cleaned and a clear gel is applied – this also improves the contact between the probe and the skin, giving a better image.
- Your pet will then be moved to the imaging suite, positioned, and scanned. A specially trained registered veterinary technician will be with your pet during the whole process to monitor their health status. Chest x-rays, ECG, and blood pressure measurements are also obtained.
- The radiologist will move the probe slowly over your pet’s chest to create consistent images of the heart. During the test, the heart rhythm will be monitored.
- During the procedure, your pet may be placed in various positions to obtain the best quality pictures.
- Afterwards, your pet will be brought to our intensive care unit, where a team of veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians will continue to monitor your pet during their recovery.
- Once a veterinarian has determined that your pet is cleared for discharge, we will call to inform you that your pet is ready to go home.
- The radiologist will send the images, patient history, and additional testing results to a board-certified cardiologist for interpretation.
- After evaluating all of the information, the cardiologist will then be able to make any recommendations on treatment, medication, and/or further diagnostics, and will provide a report to your veterinarian within 24 hours. Your veterinarian will discuss the ultrasound findings with you.
- If additional procedures are required (aspiration or biopsy), you will be contacted prior to the procedure and the benefits/risks and associated costs will be discussed. Any additional results will be forwarded to your veterinarian when they are received.
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