Cardiac Ultrasound, Echocordiogram, and Cardiac Sonography are all terms used to refer to a diagnostic study of the heart, performed by using an ultrasound machine. An ultrasound machine produces sound waves that are used to scan the body and produce an image (sonogram) of internal structures. The technology is identical to that used in pregnant women to monitor developing babies.
If it is suspected that your pet has some form of heart disease, a cardiac ultrasound is one of the best ways to diagnose your pet. While EKG and heart radiographs give you a more limited status of the heart, ultrasound allows your veterinarian to “look through” solid tissue to visualize, in detail, many of the heart’s internal components. Completely noninvasive, pets who are having their heart ultrasounded do not even need anesthesia, though sedation will sometimes be used in pets who are anxious or will not lay calmly on the ultrasound cushion. In case your pet must be sedated, we recommend withholding breakfast on the day of their appointment, but allowing as much water as they would like to drink.
Pets who are being ultrasounded will be shaved over the target area- in the case of a cardiac ultrasound, this is the right side of the chest. By removing fur, the ultrasound probe can “look” through the bare skin and measure the following parameters:
- Left ventricular diameter
- Left ventricular lumen size
- Left ventricular wall thickness
- Septum thickness
- Right ventricular wall thickness
- Heart contractility
- Valve conformation and leakage of the mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary, and aortic valves
- Pericardial effusion
- The presence of any masses in the heart
After obtaining an incredibly detailed view of your pet’s heart, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe the best treatment plan for your pet’s cardiac disease.