Austin Veterinary Diagnostic Hospital offers extensive cardiology procedures. The heart, like any pump, needs several components in order to function. They are the motor (cardiac muscle), valves (cardiac valves), and communication (electrical) system. A complete cardiac examination determines if each is healthy. The examination evaluates your pet’s ability to pump blood throughout its body.

Electrical System

The heart’s electrical system controls the cardiac rhythm and is checked by obtaining an Electrocardiogram (ECG). This is a safe, non-invasive procedure that takes very little time. A defective electrical system can be critical, causing the heart to stop (cardiac arrest), beat too quickly (tachycardia), or beat too slowly (bradycardia).

Heart Valves

Healthy heart valves are necessary for blood to flow in a circular pattern throughout the body. Their failure is the most common form of cardiac disease in dogs, and can usually be detected by listening for cardiac murmurs with a stethoscope. Cardiac murmurs indicate leaking valves or abnormal blood flow. When they are detected, an ultrasound examination is required to determine the location and severity of the damage.

Heart Muscle

Myocardial disease is the most common heart disease in cats and is also frequently diagnosed in dogs. The gold standard for diagnosing myocardial disease is a color doppler ultrasound examination. This technology allows doctors to safely view and measure the heart’s anatomical size and function in real time. In many cases, additional information may be obtained from chest X-rays sent to cardiologists with the ultrasound images and EKGs.

Cardiac Disease vs. Cardiac Failure

It is important to understand the difference between cardiac disease and cardiac failure. Cardiac disease is defined as any abnormality of the heart, whereas cardiac failure is a cardiac disease severe enough to prevent the heart from adequately supplying blood to the body.

As an example, a cardiac murmur is always considered to be indicative of cardiac disease. However, that disease may never be severe enough to prevent a healthy blood supply to the body. In other cases, murmurs are symptomatic of heart diseases capable of causing heart failures.

The goal of a cardiac examination is to determine whether the disease is present, and if so, measure its effect on cardiac function. This enables the veterinarian to determine if and when treatment is required.

Cardiac Examination

There are many diagnostic procedures available at our hospital to determine if your pet has cardiovascular disease, and if so, to what degree it is causing problems. Your pet’s cardiac examination may include some or all of the following:

Physical Examination

A complete physical examination, which includes listening to your pet’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope is the first step in any cardiac workup.


This examination is a painless, non-invasive way to view and measure your pet’s heart and major cardiac vessels. Among the structures that can be viewed in real time are the four chambers of the heart, the four heart valves, the various muscles that make up the heart, and the actual blood flow.

Blood Pressure

This very important test is also painless and non-invasive. Dogs and cats, like humans, can have dangerously high blood pressures.

Electrocardiogram (EKG)

The EKG measures the electrical activity of the heart. It is important in diagnosing heart arrythmias, such as heart block, ventricular premature beats, sick sinus, and many other conditions.


A chest X-ray can indicate the heart’s overall size, its position in the chest, and the condition of the lungs.

Laboratory Blood Analysis

A complete blood examination is required to detect many conditions that adversely affect the heart.

If you wish to learn more, we invite you to call us at (512) 288-1040. We look forward to hearing from you!