An echocardiogram is an ultrasound (sonogram) exam of the heart. Many times both radiographs (X-rays) and ultrasound of the heart are recommended for best evaluation of heart disease. X-rays show the size, shape and position of the heart and the ultrasound allows your veterinarian to see the internal structure and function of the heart.
Echocardiography is very non-invasive and well-tolerated by most pets. Most pets do not require sedation or anesthesia but this depends on their temperament. The hair on the chest wall behind their elbow area may be clipped to allow adequate visualization of the heart during the ultrasound. Gel is then placed on the skin in this area and the ultrasound probe to record images of the heart. Ultrasound produces a cross-sectional two-dimensional view of the heart by bouncing high frequency sound wave off the heart. The sound that is reflected back to the probe is used to compose an image. Because sound is used this exam is very safe to the patient.
The power of echocardiography is the ability to look inside the heart at various structures. Wall thickness can be measured, valves can examined and the flow of blood can be evaluated. These, and other parameters, allow your veterinarian to diagnose and provide appropriate treatment recommendations for diseases of the heart.
If your veterinarian has concerns about their initial ultrasound examination, they may refer you to a specialty veterinary hospital for further evaluation by a board-certified cardiologist