Cardiac Arrhythmias

A cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) is any abnormality in pace, intensity, or regularity of a pet’s heartbeat. Though not every arrhythmia is cause for concern, others can be an indication of a serious, life-threatening disease. Cardiac arrhythmias can be caused by genetic abnormalities, environmental factors, or breed predisposition. They can occur in all canine and feline breeds, ages, and genders.

A pet’s heartbeat should be regular and strong. If beating slightly alters while breathing in and out, this can be caused by an unfamiliar environment or momentary stress. Abnormalities including an elevated,  irregular or very slow pulse can also indicate anemia, lung disease, or a failure of circulation. The only way to determine the underlying issue is to have a complete cardiac workup done. Until the origin is determined, an arrhythmia should not be taken lightly. The symptoms of an arrhythmia may come and go; regardless of whether your pet is currently showing indications of an irregular heartbeat, we recommend  ensuring there are not any serious underlying cardiac issues.

Possible indications of a heart arrhythmia: 

  • Difficulty breathing. 
  • Fast heart rate when pet is relaxed. 
  • Lack of appetite. 
  • Lethargy. 
  • Loss of consciousness. 
  • Slow heart rate when activity level is high. 
  • Sudden, unexplainable collapse.
  • Weakness.

Diagnosing heart arrhythmia

In diagnosing an arrhythmia, a full physical will be performed with a complete blood analysis. Blood work can establish whether a pet has anemia and can also detect whether the organs are working properly. An EKG can detect the arrhythmia. Chest X-rays help to determine if heart disease or heart failure has occurred. An echocardiogram will assess heart function and structure.

How is heart arrhythmia treated?

Once a diagnosis has been reached, we will discuss the treatment options.  Medications  can often help control an arrythmia, depending on the underlying cause, your pet’s age, and breed.

There are two Surgical  options, both of which must be performed by a veterinary cardiology specialist. Catheter ablation  destroys the defective electrical pathways within and around the heart that cause the arrhythmia. It involves inserting a catheter into the faulty blood vessel and using electrical impulses to destroy tissue. This method has been used in canines successfully, but has yet to be tested in felines. Implanting a pacemaker is similar to a human implant, using the pacemaker to control cardiac rate and rhythm. Pacemakers have only been used in dogs.

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