The cardiology service at CARE focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in dogs and cats. Animals can develop heart disease at any age. Some diseases may be quite mild and only require intermittent monitoring, but others can be quite serious and require medications and frequent monitoring both at home and at our clinic.
To find out how serious a patient’s heart disease is, we often do diagnostic tests that include:
- Echocardiogram – an ultrasound of the heart in which sound waves are used to produce images of the heart to help us assess the flow of blood, movement of valves, and function of the heart muscle.
- Electrocardiogram – a recording of the electrical activity of a patient’s heart. ECGs are important for helping diagnose arrhythmias (heart palpitations) and can give an indication of heart chamber enlargement.
- Blood pressure measurement – as with people, this test is important because high blood pressure can contribute to the progression of heart disease as well as diseases of the eyes, brain, and kidneys.
- Thoracic radiographs (chest x-rays) – a tool to assess the heart’s size and, even more importantly, the effect that the heart is having on the lungs. Patients often visit the cardiology service because of coughs, and radiographs are a critical diagnostic test for assessing the cause and finding the right treatment.
- Holter monitor – a 24-hour monitoring device that is used to evaluate abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) that are sporadic, or only occur during specific activities, such as exercise. This lightweight device is attached to a comfortable vest and worn by your pet at home. The recordings help our cardiologists find the best treatment for your pet.
- Event monitors and Implantable loop recorders – unlike Holter monitors, these two devices do not record heart rhythm continuously. Instead, they are triggered to record only when an abnormal heart rate, rhythm, or event is detected. Event monitors are small recorders that stay on your pet up to 4 weeks in a vest, or until an event is recorded. Implantable Loop Recorders are small devices implanted under the skin of your pet and last up to 3 months. Heart rhythm is recorded by the owner using a remote controller. The recordings from these devices provide insight to diagnosing your pet’s heart condition.
- Interventional procedures – Interventional surgeries are minimally invasive procedures, often performed through a blood vessel versus opening a body cavity. CARE has the only veterinary catheter lab in the Greater Charlotte Area. These are the procedures performed in the cath lab by the CARE Cardiology Team:
- Pacemaker implantation (transvenous) – First in Charlotte
- Balloon Valvuloplasty for pulmonic stenosis or other stenoses
- PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosus) closures
- Diagnostic catheterizations for pressure assessment
- Angiographic Studies for complex congenital cardiac defects
- Heartworm Extraction
- Blood tests – these assess the function of other organs in the body and evaluate for infections and anemia. Because medications can affect other organs, it is important to make sure that they are functioning well as we treat heart disease.
Our focus is on helping pets maintain a good quality of life. We educate owners about their pet’s disease so that we can work as a team to keep them feeling good and enjoying life.
Our Cardiology Doctors
Vet Tech Profiles
Cardiology Service Lead
Daily, I speak with clients and carry out many duties such as taking radiographs, running bloodwork and ECGs, placing Holter monitors, and holding patients while the cardiologist performs the echocardiogram. As a service lead, I make the schedule, set up meetings, and meet with the doctors.
Vet Tech education
Her training has been on-the-job. “I started as a receptionist at a local veterinary hospital and am formerly a human caregiver.” She became interested in what was happening in the back of the house and asked for the opportunity to train.
“Originally from Biloxi, Mississippi. My dad was in the military, and we lived overseas and bounced around.” She likes to travel, visit wineries and breweries, and check out new places. Her cat, Keegan, is “really a dog in a cat’s body.”
What do you wish people knew about being a Vet Tech?
“I wish people understood how hard the job is. It’s not just about handling puppies and kitties; we’re dealing with animals in pain and very sick at times. It can be draining and hurt your heart. At CARE, I work with some of the best people. We cry together and laugh together. And the medicine is 100% top-notch. I’m the happiest I’ve been in my life at work, and it’s because of the people.”
What would people be surprised to learn about you? “I love sharks! I’ve been watching Shark Week every year since 1987.” She and her father have scuba-dived and swam with sharks.) “I wanted to be a shark researcher.”
Originally posted as part of CARE’s celebration of National Veterinary Technician Week (Oct. 16-22, 2022).
Walden and his hard-working heart
To celebrate CARE Charlotte’s 7th anniversary, we are sharing seven stories of thriving patients. Today, meet Walden, a young terrier mix who underwent a balloon catheter procedure for a congenital heart defect. Dr. Camden Rouben, a Cardiologist, performed the surgery.
Frankie and Cindy Archer adopted Walden, a terrier mix, from Piedmont Animal Rescue when he was around a year old. He was all puppy: playing and running on the family’s land and splashing around in the creek. “He’s the only dog I’ve ever had that will come every time you call him,” says Cindy. “Every time. “However, after running and playing hard, Walden would lay down and pant like a much older, more out-of-shape dog. The family vet detected a heart murmur, which isn’t uncommon, and this one was louder and stronger than most.
Enter Dr. Camden Rouben and CARE. Walden’s evaluation revealed pulmonic stenosis, a congenital defect where the valve that connects the heart to the pulmonary artery is thickened or fused. The condition causes turbulent blood flow. “It’s like how you can increase water pressure by putting your thumb over the end of the garden hose, ” says Dr. Rouben. “It increases the workload for the heart and can cause arrhythmias, heart failure and sudden death.”
Dr. Rouben performed a balloon valvuloplasty and successfully opened Walden’s valve so the pup would have a great chance of living a normal life! Now 2 years old, Frankie says Walden’s still running and playing and splashing it up at the creek. And Walden still comes every time you call his name.
The Archers called the team at CARE angels. “They’re very kind, and that’s very beautiful and rare,” says Frankie.
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