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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disease in Cats

By Davin Borde, DVM, DACVIM, Veterinary Heart Institute ; Jorge Guerrero, DVM, PhD, DEVPC (Ret), Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

A veterinarian often diagnoses cardiovascular disease by reviewing the medical history and signs, conducting a physical examination, and interpreting the results of specific tests or imaging procedures. The physical examination includes using a stethoscope to listen to the heart and lungs. Imaging techniques include x-rays, electrocardiography (recording electrical activity of the heart), and echocardiography (a type of ultrasonography). Most cardiovascular diseases can be diagnosed by physical examination and x-rays. Electrocardiography specifically tracks heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias). Echocardiography is excellent for confirming tentative diagnoses or detecting heart tumors or disease of the membrane that surrounds the heart (the pericardium). Occasionally, more specialized tests such as cardiac catheterization (using a thin flexible tube inserted and threaded through an artery into the heart) or nuclear studies (x-ray tests that include injection of radioactive isotopes) are necessary. (For a more detailed discussion of diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disease, see Diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disease in Dogs.)