What is a Veterinary Cardiologist?
A board certified veterinary cardiologist is a veterinarian who has completed advanced medical training after obtaining his or her DVM license. This consists of a 1-2 year internship followed by a three year residency in cardiology. During their residency, a board certified cardiologist must complete a specific number of echocardiograms in different species, a specific number of cardiac catheterizations and interventional procedures. At the completion of the residency program, he or she must pass the cardiology certification examination in order to practice veterinary cardiology. A veterinary cardiologist must have experience and training in both diagnosis and treatment options for cardiac diseases.
Cardiologists are trained to perform a variety of diagnostics such as ECG (electrocardiogram), echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) and Holter monitoring (a 24 hour ECG). They will also often review thoracic (chest) radiographs and bloodwork that has been performed by your primary veterinarian. Once the appropriate diagnostics have been performed the cardiologist can then make treatment recommendations. The goal is to provide you and your pet with long term support and management of your pet’s cardiac disease working closely with your family veterinarian to maintain continuity of care.
Most dogs and cats with significant cardiac disease will require treatment with medications. These medications can be life-long and will need to be monitored and assessed on a regular basis. Certain diseases of the pericardium (the sac around the heart) and some types of congenital heart disease can be managed with surgery. In this case, our cardiologist will work closely with our surgeons to formulate a surgical plan that is right for your pet. Some types of heart disease can be treated with procedures known as interventional cardiology. A cardiologist can place special catheters into the heart, while the patient is under anesthesia that can be used to open blocked valves, measure pressures, or occlude abnormal blood vessels. This technique can also be used to place permanent pacemaker devices in patients with abnormal heart rhythms.
Dr. Anna Paling, Charlottesville’s first veterinary cardiologist, has special interests in congenital heart disease in dogs and cats, interventional cardiology and diagnosis and management of complex arrhythmias.
For more information about cardiology specialists, please visit the website of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine sub-specialty cardiology at acvim.org.