The Veterinary Cardiology Service at the Premier Veterinary Group’s Grayslake Hospital is committed to providing an exceptional level of care for veterinary patients suffering from various cardiac diseases in patients of all ages. In addition, the Cardiology Service can often diagnose, treat, or make additional referral recommendations for pulmonary (lung) disease. Many of our cardiac patients also have diseases of the lungs and airways. Management of patients with both disease processes can be a challenge, but is something our service does on a regular basis using years of experience and advanced diagnostic imaging equipment. At Premier Veterinary Group, we have a group of board certified doctor’s in other specialties. This allows us to work as a team for your pet, allowing us to provide the most complete and accurate medical care for your pet.
What to expect at the appointment
Our initial consultations (patients we are seeing for the first time) are one hour long. During this time, we will perform all the necessary diagnostics and have time to discuss the findings and the treatment recommendations. We allow plenty of time to explain what the diagnosis means for your pet and your family and to answer any questions you may have. Our primary goal is to make sure you are comfortable with the recommendations and have a full understanding of the disease your pet has. We also take time to consider individual needs and exceptions. We understand that some families will have limitations and we will work with you to make sure your pet can still be treated and have a good quality of life. We also provide access to our cardiology email that is checked multiple times daily (during our regular office hours) in an effort to allow for easy communication following the appointment. Phone calls are also welcome.
We typically receive information from your primary care veterinarian prior to your appointment. This may include copies of your pet’s medical records, radiographs, and/or blood test results. This allows us to have some understanding of what diagnostics may be needed and to have a more complete and efficient discussion with you about your pet’s symptoms and your concerns.
For our recheck examinations, we are often able to complete the appointment in 30 minutes, unless additional diagnostics are needed. We still allow time to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have.
At the end of the consultation, you will receive a written summary of all diagnostics that were completed, the diagnosis that was made, a detailed list of medications (if needed), and what symptoms (if any) you will need to look for at home. A complete summary of the visit and our recommendations will be sent to your primary care veterinarian the same day of your appointment.
Follow-up care and recheck examinations
In most cases, recheck examinations will be needed. Many times, these exams can be done with your primary care veterinarian. In some cases, we will recommend a recheck examination to be done here with us. This information will be written on your take home summary of the visit.
Services and Diagnostics
- Echocardiography: An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. This is a non-invasive test that is done in a quiet, dimly lit room, on a padded table. It allows us to see inside the heart, evaluate the valves, measure heart function, and perform Doppler studies. Doppler is used to detect leakage of blood (also called regurgitation), diagnose congenital heart diseases (diseases that pets are born with), and to measure pressures within the heart itself. We rarely need to sedate our patients for this procedure. If sedation is needed, it will be discussed with you first. In some cases, we may need to shave a small amount of hair on the side of the chest in order to obtain the best image. Ultrasound gel and isopropyl alcohol are used as part of the ultrasound exam. These are non-toxic substances that are safe for animals and humans.
- Electrocardiography (ECG, EKG): This is a machine that detects and records the heart rhythm. It is typically used for patients that have an abnormal heart rhythm, also known as an arrhythmia.
- Blood Pressure: In many cases, our patients will need to have their blood pressure checked. Many people ask how we do this in animals. It is very similar to how blood pressure is measured in people. A pediatric cuff is placed around the leg and instead of a stethoscope, a Doppler machine is used on the back of one of the paws to detect the pulse and measure the blood pressure.
- Digital Radiography: We use state of the art imaging equipment in order to obtain the most accurate radiographs (x-rays). The radiographs are able to be viewed immediately and can be placed onto a disc and/or emailed as needed. If needed, they can also be interpreted by a board certified radiologist.
- Holter Monitors: A holter monitor is a small device that is used to detect and record each heartbeat over a 24 hour period. The monitor is placed onto a vest or harness and there are 3 lead wires that are attached to the skin (usually one behind each front leg and one in front of a hind limb). This is recommended in order to assess patients with arrhythmias. It allows us to make the initial diagnosis and also to assess the effect of medications being used to treat the arrhythmias.
- Event Monitors: These are similar to holter monitors, but only record the heart rhythm when a person pushes the button. These can be worn for up to 30 days. These are recommended for patients with intermittent arrhythmias that are happening so infrequently, an ECG or holter monitor may not capture the event. Most often, these are recommended for patients who are collapsing.
- Pacemaker interrogation: This is done for patients who have had a pacemaker placed. We are able to monitor the battery and function of the pacemaker. If changes need to be made, we can make those changes at that time. This procedure is non-invasive and does not take long to perform. We simply hold a device over the surface of the skin where the pacemaker battery is located and obtain the information and can make changes if needed. No anesthesia or sedation is required. We are not able to place pacemakers at this time, but are hoping to in the near future.
If necessary, we have the ability to hospitalize your pet for 24 hour care in an ICU supervised by a fully staffed team of veterinarians and certified veterinary technicians. We are able to provide oxygen therapy (if needed), injectable medications, blood pressure monitoring, and any other treatments necessary to treat patients with heart failure. Some patients with arrhythmias may also require hospitalization for continuous ECG monitoring and treatment of the arrhythmia.
Common Acquired Structural Cardiac Diseases (cardiac diseases that develop after birth)
- Feline cardiomyopathy (the most common is HCM or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy)
- Degenerative mitral or tricuspid valve disease
- Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
- Pulmonary hypertension (a primary lung disease that secondarily affects the heart)
Congenital Cardiac Diseases (cardiac diseases they are born with)
- Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
- Ventricular septal defect (VSD)
- Subaortic stenosis (SAS)
- Pulmonic stenosis (PS)
- Tetralogy of fallot
- Atrial septal defect
- Tricuspid valve dysplasia
- Mitral valve dysplasia
- Mitral valve stenosis
Cardiac Arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms)
- Sinus arrhythmia (a benign arrhythmia that is usually related to respirations)
- AV block (1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree)
- Sinus tachycardia
- Atrial fibrillation
- Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)
- Ventricular tachycardia (VT)
- Atrial premature contractions (APC’s)
- Ventricular premature contractions (VPC’s)
- Atrial standstill
This is the word used to describe collapsing or fainting secondary to a cardiac cause. There are many reasons or causes for syncope and it is often mistaken for seizures. In some cases, it can be very difficult to identify the cause and may require several different tests before a diagnosis can be made. In other cases, the cause is identified at the first appointment. Many causes for syncope can be treated with medications, sometimes surgery is required.