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Diagnosing a dog or cat with heart disease can be quite the journey. Some pets are diagnosed with a heart condition based on findings from the physical exam. Other pets may require extensive testing to determine the cause of their issues. Testing will likely be required to understand the intricacies of your pet’s heart condition.

A visit to the veterinarian for possible heart disease will begin with a detailed discussion. Your veterinarian will want to know about the history of the problem and any treatment. It will help if you can tell them about the frequency and duration of any symptoms (See our Symptoms page). If your pet is taking any medications be sure to bring the medications. If you have kept track of breathing rate and effort (Monitoring form), or if you have completed one of the Quality of Life forms, bring those forms as well.

Your veterinarian will complete a thorough physical exam. They will use a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s heart and lungs. In the lungs, your veterinarian is listening for abnormal lung sounds that could indicate fluid buildup. For the heart, your veterinarian is listening for a steady, regular rhythm of the normal heart sounds (“lub and dub”) at a normal speed. Heart murmurs, or irregular heart rhythms, often indicate that heart disease may be present.

Sometimes your pet’s history and physical exam may be relatively normal. Your veterinarian might still recommend testing if there have been symptoms that indicate heart disease.  Some tests can be done by your pet’s primary care veterinarian, while other tests are typically done by veterinary cardiologists.

Just like pieces in a puzzle, the history, physical exam, and tests help build the big picture of your pet’s heart disease. They will help determine the appropriate treatment.

12/16/2016 - Grafton, Mass. - Kristen Antoon, Veterinary Technician II, poses with Riley, a Golden Retriever, for a stock photo of human-animal interaction at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine on December 16, 2016. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)