Common heart rhythm abnormalities in dogs and cats

Cardiac arrhythmias in a given animal often occur inconsistently and are influenced by drug therapy, prevailing autonomic tone, baroreceptor reflexes, and variations in heart rate. Treatment decisions are based on consideration of the origin (supraventricular or ventricular), timing (premature or escape), and severity of the rhythm disturbance, as well as the clinical context. Correct ECG interpretation is obviously important. Although a routine (resting) ECG documents arrhythmias present during the recording period, it provides only a glimpse of the cardiac rhythms occurring over the course of the day.

Because arrhythmias can have marked variation in frequency and severity over time, potentially critical arrhythmias can easily be missed. For this reason, Holter monitoring or other forms of extended ECG acquisition are useful in assessing the severity and frequency of arrhythmias and for monitoring treatment efficacy. Some rhythm abnormalities do not require therapy, whereas others demand immediate, aggressive treatment. Close patient monitoring is especially important in animals in more serious arrhythmias.

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