Heart examination

Heart examination is an important treatment option for pets, and can help save lives. We recommend a cardiac examination especially for patients with symptoms such as, for example:

    • Breathing Problems
    • Reap
    • Reduced activity
    • Fainting attack
    • When a veterinarian during a normal clinical examination finds a heart murmur, arrhythmia or other symptoms that give rise to suspicion of heart disease.

Table of contents

Which dog breeds are predisposed to heart disease?

Several dog breeds are genetically predisposed to developing certain types of heart disease. Here are some of the breeds that are often associated with an increased risk of heart disease:

  1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: These dogs have a high incidence of mitral insufficiency (mitral valve failure), especially in old age. This is a common heart disease in older dogs.
  2. Boxers:

    Dilated cardiomyopathy is a heart condition reported to be more common in Boxers than some other breeds.

  3. Doberman Pinscher:

    Dilated cardiomyopathy is also a concern in this breed, although it may be less common compared to Boxers.

  4. Great Dane:

    Great Danes are prone to dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that affects the heart muscle and can lead to impaired heart function.

  5. Irish Wolfhound:

    Dilated cardiomyopathy has been observed in Irish Wolfhounds and there is a known genetic predisposition in this breed.

  6. American Cocker Spaniel:

    These breeds may have an increased risk of dilated cardiomyopathy.

It is important to note that although these breeds are predisposed, it does not necessarily mean that all individuals of these breeds will develop heart disease. Environmental factors, lifestyle, nutrition and other genetic factors also play a role.

Which cat breeds are predisposed to heart disease?

Several cat breeds are known to have an increased risk of certain heart diseases. Here are some cat breeds that are predisposed to developing heart disease:

  1. Maine Coons:

    Maine Coon cats are known to have an increased risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is a common heart disease in cats. It is a condition where the heart muscle becomes thickened, which can affect the heart's pumping function.

  2. Ragdoll:

    Ragdoll cats also have an increased risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and this condition is a major concern within this breed.

  3. British Shorthair:

    British Shorthair cats can be prone to cardiomyopathy and other heart conditions.

  4. Sphynx:

    Sphynx cats have a known predisposition to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

  5. Persians:

    Some studies have suggested an increased risk of cardiomyopathy in Persian cats.

  6. Norwegian forest cat:

    This breed has also been reported to be prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

  7. Siamese:

    Siamese cats may have an increased risk of cardiomyopathy compared to some other breeds.

It is important to note that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is not limited to specific breeds and can occur in any cat, regardless of breed. However, there appears to be a hereditary component in many cases

In addition, it is not unusual for the heart disease to afflict older dogs of small breeds and cats with a high metabolism.

How is a heart examination carried out?

We carry out a thorough clinical general examination with a focus on auscultation of the heart and lungs.
We then carry out an ultrasound examination of the heart and an electrocardiographic examination (ECG) and possibly an X-ray of the chest.
Ultrasound of the heart, which is usually called an echocardiographic examination, is a very important part of heart diagnostics.

We can assess the structure of the heart with many details – heart chambers, main arteries and valves in the heart – and how the heart works.

Heart diseases that we can detect with ultrasound are, for example:

      • Myxomatous mitral valve degeneration
      • Dilated cardiomyopathy
      • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
      • Congenital heart defects (persistent ductus arteriosus (PDA), mitral valve/tricuspid valve dysplasia, aortic stenosis, pulmonary stenosis) and others.

As a rule, we do not use anesthesia to examine the heart with ultrasound, but some pets that are very stressed, scared or aggressive need to be sedated or sedated before the examination.

Definition of the various heart diseases we can detect with ultrasound

  1. Mitral valve failure (Mitral insufficiency):

    Ultrasound can show leakage of blood through the mitral valve, which is common in older dogs and some cats.

  2. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM):

    A condition characterized by thickening of the heart muscle, especially in the left ventricle. It is often seen in cats, especially breeds such as Maine Coon and Ragdoll.

  3. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM):

    A condition in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged and weakened. It can affect dogs, especially breeds such as Doberman Pinschers and Boxers.

  4. Aortic stenosis: A narrowing of the outflow tract from the left ventricle to the aorta, which can affect both dogs and cats.
  5. Persistent ductus arteriosus (PDA): A congenital heart defect in which an important arterial connection (ductus arteriosus) does not close after birth. It is often seen in puppies and kittens.
  6. Endocarditis: Inflammation of the inner lining of the heart (the endocardium), which can affect the heart valves. This can be demonstrated by observing changes in valve morphology and function.
  7. Pericarditis: Inflammation of the pericardium, the outer membrane that surrounds the heart. Ultrasound can help show accumulation of fluid in the pericardial cavity.
With the MyLab™X9 ultrasound system, we perform heart examinations at A-Vet Smådyrklinikk AS
MyLab™X9 ultrasound system at A-Vet Smådyrklinikk AS

Example of one of the most common heart diseases

What is mitral valve failure (mitral insufficiency)?

The heart valve between the left atrium and left ventricle is called the mitral valve. Normally, this should prevent the backflow of blood back into the left atrium. When backflow occurs, we have mitral valve failure.

The purpose of the mitral valve is to regulate the direction of blood by preventing backflow into the left atrium during the contraction of the heart. Meanwhile, problems can arise when the mitral valve does not perform its task correctly. This phenomenon, known as mitral valve insufficiency or mitral valve insufficiency, occurs when the valve allows abnormal backflow of blood.

Causes of mitral valve failure

Mitral valve insufficiency in dogs, also known as degenerative mitral valve disease (DMVD) or myxomatous mitral valve disease, is a common heart disease in older dogs, especially small breeds such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dachshund, and Chihuahua. Here are some of the causes of mitral valve regurgitation in dogs:

  1. Genetic factors:

    Some breeds are genetically predisposed to mitral valve failure. This means that the disease can be inherited, and dogs of certain breeds can be more susceptible.

  2. Aging:

    Mitral regurgitation is usually associated with aging in dogs. Older dogs, especially those over the age of seven, are at increased risk of developing this condition.

  3. Valvular degeneration:

    As in humans, the valves in the heart of dogs can degenerate over time. This can lead to a loss of elasticity and tightness in the mitral valve.

  4. Cardiomyopathy:

    Some dogs can develop cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes weakened and enlarged. This can affect the function of the mitral valve.

  5. Acquired valvular diseases:

    Infections or inflammation of the heart can cause damage to the mitral valve and result in mitral valve failure.

  6. Malnutrition:

    The diet of the dog can also play a role in the development of heart disease. Lack of nutrients or an improperly balanced diet can affect heart health.

Symptoms of mitral valve failure

It is important to note that mitral valve regurgitation in dogs often develops gradually, and early stages may be asymptomatic. Symptoms such as cough, fatigue, reduced stamina and breathing difficulties can manifest as the condition progresses.


The treatment of mitral valve regurgitation in dogs usually focuses on relieving symptoms, improving quality of life and prolonging the life of the animal.

It is important to note that treatment will vary from dog to dog, depending on the severity of the mitral valve insufficiency and any other underlying conditions. Regular follow-up with the vet is necessary to adjust the treatment plan as needed and to monitor the dog's response to the treatment. Dogs with mitral valve insufficiency often require lifelong treatment and care to maintain the best possible quality of life.

Long-term prospects

It is important to understand that mitral valve regurgitation is a chronic condition, and treatment often focuses on improving quality of life and controlling symptoms. Vets will adapt the treatment plan based on the dog's individual needs and response over time. Frequent veterinary checks and careful monitoring are essential to adapt the treatment and manage any changes in the dog's condition. Despite the challenges, many dogs with mitral valve insufficiency can live active and rewarding lives with proper care.

ECG examination

ECG is recommended in patients who have rhythm disturbances found during auscultation of the heart or have a history of fainting spells or problems with physical activity. The EKG helps to find out different types of rhythm disturbances and to plan further diagnostics and treatment.

X-ray diagnostics

X-ray of the chest gives us information about the size of the heart and lung function. The heart can become larger than usual in certain heart diseases. Pulmonary edema (water in the lungs) may eventually occur secondary to the heart disease, and this is read on an X-ray.

Holter – EKG

Sometimes we want to record the heartbeat over a longer period of time. We then use a Holter-ECG which enables us to record the heart rhythm over e.g. a day. We put on the equipment at the clinic and a special vest is used which the dog wears. The owner receives detailed information about the level of activity, as well as keeping a diary of the activities. The cardiologist then reads the recording that has been made and assesses whether treatment should be initiated.

Blood pressure measurement

Blood pressure measurement is often used in the examination of heart patients together with the other examinations mentioned above. A special cuff connected to the blood pressure monitor is placed around the dog's/cat's paw or tail. The vet will record the measurements and will include it in the assessment when treatment is to be prescribed, e.g. if there is a need for blood pressure-lowering medicine.

Heart examination before breeding

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a dog breed that is more prone to heart problems and it is recommended to carry out a heart examination before the dog is used in breeding. The dog breed is currently prohibited from breeding. It is planned to cross the breed with another breed from 2024, and then it is desirable to continue the heart examinations.

Veterinarian Elisabeth is approved to carry out these examinations on dogs. Therefore, as a breeder, you can order a cardiac examination of your Cavalier with us before it is used in breeding.

Veterinarian Magda has special expertise in heart diseases and cardiac examination. 

Do you want to book an appointment or do you have any questions about your dog's health? Get in touch on tel.: 33139840 or post@a-vet.no. You can also book an appointment with us easily online

Does the dog or cat have to fast before the examination?

There is usually no need for fasting. If your dog or cat gets very stressed at the vet, it may be wise to only give half breakfast before 8 in case a light anesthetic is needed. Please let us know about this when the appointment is made, as in rare cases it may be appropriate to give sedative medicine at home before the examination.

Preparation before the cardiac examination: monitor the breathing rate

In the days before the consultation, it is good if you can count the breathing rate for a couple of days when the dog/cat is sleeping. This is done by counting the number of breaths per minute. Use a watch with a seconds hand or a suitable app on your smartphone (Cardialis, heart 2 heart).

The easiest thing is to look at how many times the stomach lifts in one minute.

It is also nice if you can think about whether your dog/cat has a reduced level of activity, an abnormal cough or a changed breathing pattern.

How much does a heart examination at a veterinarian cost? 

The price of a heart examination for a dog or cat depends on how much is to be done. A guide price can be obtained from our reception, and you will receive a price estimate after an initial consultation. Sometimes there is a need for further investigations such as blood tests and X-ray diagnostics. The vet will discuss it with you beforehand. Price estimates are signed digitally or at our reception.

Read more about other treatment options in our clinic here !

Echocardiography, examination of the heart with ultrasound. Color Doppler provides information on the direction of blood flows.
Spectral Doppler also provides information about the speed of blood flow. In mitral valve failure, an increased speed of blood flow through the valve can be seen, especially when the heart tries to compensate for the leak by pumping more blood.