Q: There are Cardiologists for animals?
A: Yes! Better yet, VCCC offers board certified veterinary cardiologists. Board-certified specialists have four additional years of advanced training after veterinary school and pass two consecutive years of testing with the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine to demonstrate their advanced expertise in cardiology.
Q: How will I know if my pet has a heart problem?
A: Wellness visits with your primary veterinarian are significant in giving your pet a long, healthy life. During a routine exam, your veterinarian may hear an abnormal heart sound. This sound could be described as a gallop or a murmur.
Your pet may have presented to your veterinarian with a symptom that could be heart-related. Dogs may have developed a cough, have trouble breathing, show weakness or exercise intolerance, or possibly faint. Cats may hide more than usual, have an increase in respiratory effort, faint or have a sudden onset of forelimb lameness or hind limb paralysis.
If your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms, they should be seen by your veterinarian right away.
Q: Why does my pet need to see a Cardiologist?
A: Your primary veterinarian may have referred you due to a heart murmur, a possible enlarged heart or even an elevated proBNP test. The best way to figure out the type, the severity and the treatment for any pet with heart disease is to see a board certified veterinary cardiologist in person. Taking your pet to a cardiologist allows a specialist to perform an examination and diagnostic testing that specifically pertains to your pet’s cardiac needs.
Q: My veterinarian referred me, but my pet doesn’t appear sick. Can I wait?
A: Typically, pets do not appear sick until they are in an emergency situation. Both cats and dogs can hide their outward symptoms. We believe it is always best to see us before a scary situation arises.
Q: What are common signs and symptoms that may show my pet has heart disease?
A: Murmurs, gallops and/or an arrhythmia may all indicate underlying heart disease that could require treatment. Unfortunately, not all pets with heart disease have abnormal heart sounds. (This is common in cats.)
Potential symptoms in dogs:
- Trouble Breathing
- Weakness or Lethargy
- Exercise intolerance
- Abdomen distension
Potential symptoms in cats:
- Unusual hiding
- Increased repository rate and effort
- Sudden onset of forelimb lameness or hind limb paralysis
If any of the above symptoms are noted in your pet, they should be evaluated by your veterinarian right away.
Q: What should I expect during the appointment?
A: A new patient appointment will vary depending upon the species of your pet. Typically, you will be greeted by one of the receptionists in one of our locations who will ask you to fill out a new client form, as well as a symptom questionnaire form. If you have already filled out these forms online, we will simply ask you to confirm that the information transcribed is correct. One of our lead veterinary technicians will then meet with you to discuss the history of your pet and your concerns. During your conversation with a lead nurse, you will be given a verbal estimate of the diagnostics needed on your pet. This may or may not be the same as the verbal estimate given over the phone. In some cases, there may have been a development in symptoms, or new information that may add to or subtract from the diagnostics needed. A new patient appointment typically lasts a few hours. This includes your consultation with the doctor after your pet’s diagnostics.
Q: When will I get a diagnosis?
A: Both of our cardiologists are board certified, so the measurements needed to diagnosis the patient will be performed at the time of visit. This will ensure that you have a diagnosis the same day as your visit. You will have ample time to discuss treatment options that are best for your pet and your family with the cardiologist.
Q: What services does VCCC offer?
- Diagnostic Testing and Interpretation on-site
- Physical Examination
- 6 lead electrocardiography (ECG)
- Radiographic interpretation
Holter monitoring (24 hour ECG)
- Doppler Blood Pressure
- Laboratory Test Analysis
VCCC also offers two levels of heart certification through Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)
- Auscultation: detecting the presence or absence of a heart murmur
- Echocardiogram: definitively ruling out congenital heart disease
Q: Will my pet need surgery?
A: While there are some congenital heart defects that can be treated surgically, the majority of cardiac disease is treated medically, as surgery is not a feasible option.
Q: Do we offer surgery services?
A: Yes. We offer surgery using our state of the art cardiac fluoroscopy.
- Pacemaker Implantation
- Tracheal Stent
We also offer cardiology-related procedures, in addition to the management of acute and chronic cardiology cases:
- Mass aspirates
Q: Can I be present during the diagnostics?
A: We prefer that you are not present, since many dogs behave much better when the owner is not around, making the process easier and faster.
Q: Do I have to wait in the hospital while diagnostics are being performed?
A: You can, but it is not required. Many owners leave to run errands and return upon completion. Due to the severity of most of our cases, drop-off appointments are made only with a doctor’s authorization.
Q: What should I expect for costs and payments?
A: The cost of consultation, echocardiogram, EKG and/or blood pressure can be discussed with our client service representative. Most our patients are diagnosed on these procedures alone. If there are any further recommended treatments or diagnostics needed an estimate will be reviewed with you. All diagnostics done with your veterinarian are considered before moving forward with additional diagnostics. We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, Care Credit and cash.
Q: Will my pet be shaved or sedated?
A: In most of our cases, there is no need to shave or sedate the pet. Your pet’s fur is dampened with alcohol and ultrasound gel to obtain the echocardiographic study.
Q: Can my pet have food and or water before the appointment?
A: Yes! Continue your routine as usual, including giving any cardiac medications that your pet may already be taking.
Q: How soon can I be seen?
A: Our client service representative will help you find a time and a location that best suits you. Urgent and same day appointments are available as needed.
Q: What should I bring to my appointment?
A: Please bring the following:
- Any medical records and chest x-rays that your pet has had within the last year (unless the pet’s cardiac symptoms appeared longer than a year ago)
- A list of all medications with strengths and dosages, or the actual pill vials
- Yourself and your pet J
Q: Can the echocardiogram be performed at my regular veterinary practice?
A: Some primary veterinarian offices provide the ability for a mobile ultra-sonographer to visit.
Q: What can VCCC offer me that other cardiologist or mobile ultra-sonographers cannot?
A: Veterinary Cardiopulmonary Care Center serves as an extension of your primary care veterinarian’s practice to accurately diagnose and treat heart disease. We have two board-certified cardiologists and five different locations to best serve our clients and patients. Our goal is to improve both the quantity and quality of your companion’s life.
|Non-board certified cardiologist/sonographer||Board-certified cardiologist|
|Meets face-to-face with you for a full consultation and listens to your pet’s heart with a stethoscope||✓|
|Is required to remain up to date on the most common treatments for heart disease||✓|
|Specialty-trained to perform and interpret routine tests||✓|
|Can perform an ultrasound of the heart||✓||✓|
|Specialty-trained for a minimum of 3 years exclusively in cardiovascular disease of animals, including performing advanced technique heart specific ultrasound and minimally-invasive surgery|
|Expert-trained in what medications and treatment will be most beneficial to treat your pet’s heart disease. Is aware of potential drug interactions and side effects and will educate you on what to monitor your pet for once started on cardiac drug therapy.|
|Continues communication with you and your primary care veterinarian regarding your pet’s condition and assists with medication changes as needed to ensure the best care.||✓|
|Dedicated, trained and compassionate staff to help facilitate appointments, questions, drug refills, etc.||✓|
Board certified veterinary cardiologists are an integral part of your animal’s care team from the time a potential cardiac abnormality is noted. Early diagnosis and appropriate therapy of cardiac conditions helps your animal live a longer and healthier life.
Q: Can medications prolong my pet’s life?
A: Yes, medications can both prolong the quantity and quality of your pet’s life with cardiac disease.
Q: What do the medications do?
A: Each medication does something specific. However, the bottom line is to:
- Resolve and stabilize signs of heart failure.
- Help stabilize your pets underlying cardiac disease and delay or improve the onset of symptoms.
- Treat an arrhythmia.
Q: Does heart medication have side effects?
A: All medications have the potential to cause side effects. If you are concerned about side effects that develop after starting a new medication or adjusting the dose of a current medication, please contact our office so we may assist you in resolving this issue.
Q: How do I get my pet to take the medications?
A: Some pets will take the medications just fine, while others may prove more of a challenge. A few helpful tips:
- Many medications can be crushed and broken into smaller portions. This makes it easy to mask in their food. Please check with the staff to determine if the medication you are giving is one that can be crushed.
- You can use treats such as Pill Pockets or Greenies to hide the pills.
- After medicating, encourage your pet to drink.
Q: Where can I get the medications for my pet?
- You may refill your prescriptions at any of our locations. (We are in specific locations on specific days.)
- Certain medications are veterinarian labeled drugs only and may only be acquired at our office or your primary veterinarian’s office.
- Some of the prescriptions that are not veterinarian labeled drugs are available at any human pharmacy.
- Compounding pharmacies can alter the flavor and texture to meet your pet’s needs.
Q: Are the medications lifelong?
A: Some cardiac diseases may require a lifelong treatment plan.
Q: Will medications cure my pet’s heart disease?
A: No drug can cure heart disease in pets, but it can help slow down its progression.
Q: Will my pet be on restricted activity?
A: Many dogs with heart failure will need to have their exercise restricted. This can vary from minimal to severe restriction. Because dogs are sometimes not cooperative, sedatives may be required.
Q: Why do I need a repeat/recheck echocardiogram?
- Follow up echocardiograms are important for long-term cardiac care. They provide the information needed to check for disease progression. A recheck echocardiogram is designed to identify structural changes in the heart, heart function and intracardiac pressures that would affect medication changes.
- The earlier these changes are detected the more effective their treatment can be.
- The ideal medication balance is achieved through routine care and communication.
- Symptoms of heart failure can be devastating and life threatening. Preventing or limiting these symptoms can happen with adjustments in your pet’s treatment plans. Adjustments that are made by reevaluations.