Do dogs or cats ever need a cardiologist? Why, yes, they may. Just like humans, companion animals can have heart (cardiac) and lung (pulmonary) problems.

These conditions fall into two categories:

  • Congenital (present from birth)
  • Acquired (they develop over time)

Fortunately for our furry family members, there are specialists available to help. A board-certified veterinary cardiologist is a veterinarian who focuses solely in diagnosing and treating diseases of the heart, lungs, and respiratory system. In order to be called a veterinary cardiologist (or a specialist), the veterinarian must become board-certified.

Veterinarians complete their undergraduate education followed by four years of veterinary school. Board-certified cardiologists do the same, but continue on with their education after veterinary school by completing a one-year internship, a three-year specialized residency, and then pass rigorous board examinations in their field of expertise. Only veterinarians who become board-certified in cardiology can be called veterinary cardiologists.

There are fewer than 300 board-certified veterinary cardiologists in the US. Our own Merilee T. Small DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology) is one of them. Her education, training, and experience, combined with an extensive range of resources available at The COVE, gives your pet the best options for timely, accurate diagnosis and treatment.

What are the signs of cardiac issues in dogs and cats?

Catching heart disease early can improve your pet’s long-term prognosis and the outlook for optimal quality of life. That is why routine physical exams with your primary care veterinarian are essential for your pet’s heart and overall health.

Symptoms are easier to detect in dogs than in cats, but the following signs can be indications of a heart issue:

  • Persistent cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Distended or bloated abdomen
  • Collapsing or fainting
  • Weakness
  • Restlessness
  • Low or no exercise tolerance
  • Behavioral changes
  • Depressed and/or withdrawn
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight changes, especially weight loss

If your pet is suffering from any of these symptoms, it might be time to see your primary care veterinarian. Your veterinarian will complete a thorough physical exam, including auscultation with a stethoscope. Auscultation can detect abnormal heart sounds (heart murmur) or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia). Further tests may be performed in the veterinary office, including measurement of blood pressure, electrocardiogram, chest radiographs (X-rays), or blood work. Your doctor may recommend a referral to a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.

Among the most common diseases and conditions our cardiology team treats:

In Dogs

  • Degenerative valve heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathies (Heart Muscle Disease)
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heartworm disease

 In Cats

  • Cardiomyopathies (Heart Muscle Disease)
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heartworm disease

What are the diagnostics and treatment options?

While surgical solutions may sometimes be the best treatment option, know that most cardiology patients can be treated medically, and on an outpatient basis.

We offer a full range of diagnostic and treatment options for pets with heart conditions, including:

  • Echocardiography with color flow Doppler (an ultrasound of the heart, vessels, and flow of blood used for diagnosis of most heart diseases)
  • Holter and event monitoring (wearable device that offers continuous monitoring of heart rate and rhythm to aid in diagnosis of infrequent collapsing events and arrhythmias)
  • Non-invasive and Invasive blood pressure monitoring
  • Thoracic radiography (x-rays)
  • Acute and chronic medical management
  • Pacemaker interrogation and monitoring (periodic, non-invasive communication with a pacemaker to ensure that it’s functioning properly)
  • Outpatient and inpatient cardiology care

We hope your pet doesn’t need cardiology services, but if you’ve been referred to us, know that your furry family member’s heart is in the best possible hands with Dr. Small and her team. For additional information, we welcome your call anytime at 757.935.9111. No appointment is ever needed for emergency care.



About Us

The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.