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Heartbeat Arrhythmia

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; however, abnormalities, including a speedy or sluggish pulse, can indicate anemia, lung disease, pressure on the brain, or a failure of circulation.  The only way to determine the underlying issue is to have a veterinarian develop a proper diagnosis. 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 scheduling an appointment with the veterinarian to ensure there are not any serious underlying cardiac issues.

Possible indications of a heart arrhythmia: 

  • Abdominal pain. 
  • 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.  The veterinarian will determine if an ECG or EKG are necessary. 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, while an ECG can determine the type of arrhythmia. Chest X-rays might be necessary to determine if heart disease or heart failure has occurred.

How is heart arrhythmia treated?

After the veterinarian has obtained a positive diagnosis, they will discuss the various treatment options.  Surgery and prescription medications are both available to your pet as possible therapies.

Prescription medication - Several medications are available to help control arrhythmias, and the veterinarian will discuss which prescription is best for your pet’s age, gender, and breed.

Surgery – 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 - similar to a human implant, pet pacemakers control cardiac arrhythmias. Pet pacemakers have only been tested in canines.

If you have any questions about an irregular heartbeat, feel free to contact our office.

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