Why does my pet need a veterinary cardiologist?

Your family veterinarian may recommend that your pet see a veterinary cardiologist for a variety of reasons.  Your pet may have an examination finding suggestive of underlying heart disease (such as a heart murmur, arrhythmia) or your pet may be exhibiting clinical signs of heart disease (such as coughing, labored breathing, exercise intolerance, fainting, abdominal distension).  It is presently estimated that between 10-20% of the canine and feline population have underlying heart disease which will affect both the quality and length of the lives of our pets.  

For those pets in congestive heart failure secondary to mitral valve disease, it has been shown that these pets can live longer when their care is co-managed by both a veterinary cardiologist and a family veterinarian.

What is a veterinary cardiologist?

A veterinary cardiologist is a veterinarian who has completed advanced residency training in the field of veterinary cardiology and is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM).  They have generally completed an additional 4 years of advanced training beyond their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree.  Presently, there are are just over 260 veterinary cardiologists in North America and only 10 located in Canada.  Dr. Orr is one of only 3 veterinary cardiologists located in Atlantic Canada. Veterinary specialty care provides an extension to the care provided by primary care veterinarians through experience and education in more complicated diseases and treatments, as well as more advanced diagnostics to help improve the overall care of our animal companions.

What does a veterinary cardiologist do?

A veterinary cardiologist can diagnose and manage heart disease in animals, often using non-invasive testing.  Common diagnostic tests include echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart), electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG that evaluates the heart rhythm), ambulatory ECG (Holter monitoring which is often indicated in patients with arrhythmias and a history of fainting), and thoracic radiographs (allows identification of congestive heart failure and other pulmonary abnormalities), and blood pressure measurement.  A comprehensive cardiac examination and a review of your pet’s medical history by a veterinary cardiologist will allow design of an individualized diagnostic and treatment plan for your pet.  An individualized treatment plan will help to improve the length and quality of lives of pets with heart disease.

We realize it can be scary and overwhelming to learn that your beloved pet may have heart disease.  Our goal at East Coast Veterinary Cardiology is to make cardiac care accessible and affordable for pets throughout Nova Scotia in order to improve the quality and length of life of your pet.  Dr. Orr will work closely with your family veterinarian to tailor an individual diagnostic and treatment plan for your pet and ensure that you are well educated about your pet’s underlying disease and prognosis.

Your family veterinarian may talk to you if a cardiac evaluation with Dr. Orr is appropriate for your pet.  

In the meantime please explore our site – we have included a variety of pet owner resources including information on common forms of heart disease in animals, information about commonly prescribed cardiac medications and other owner resources for owners seeking more information about management of heart disease in pets.