Cardiac Services

Comprehensive cardiac physical examinations

We specialize in a detailed assessment of your pet’s cardiac health. The consultation typically begins with a thorough review of your pet’s medical history and your primary veterinarian’s existing test results. Following a consultation with the family, we perform a physical examination and formulate a diagnostic and treatment plan. Diagnostic tests are typically performed during the appointment and results are discussed at the conclusion of the visit. We will provide a full report to the primary veterinarian.


An echocardiogram is a comprehensive ultrasound of the heart. Our cardiologists have three years of advanced training and years of experience in cardiac ultrasound. Utilizing specialized equipment, an accurate yet non-invasive evaluation of the heart is possible. Echocardiography assesses the anatomy and mechanical function of the heart, valves, and blood flow within the heart. Your pet’s condition is generally fully diagnosed while you wait for this test to be performed on an outpatient basis.

Electrocardiography (ECG)

An ECG (EKG) is an electrical print-out of your pet’s heart rhythm. ECGs are diagnostic in cases of irregular heartbeats, arrhythmias, conduction disturbances and symptoms such as fainting, weakness and shortness of breath.

Thoracic radiography

A thoracic radiograph is also known as a chest x-ray. Thoracic radiographs are important in evaluating the size and shape of the heart and the size of the lung vessels and great arteries, as well as evaluating the airways and lungs.  Our thoracic radiographs are digital and are archived online for future reference by your cardiologist, primary veterinarian, or radiologist.

Holter & Event Monitors

Holter and event monitors are small digital ECG units that can record every beat of your pet’s heart while he or she is at home. Typically worn for 24 hours, Holter monitors record the ECG continuously and are useful in evaluating the severity/importance of ventricular and supraventricular arrhythmias, as well as the response to medication for these arrhythmias. Additionally, Holters are commonly recommended in the diagnostic workup for dogs that are fainting or collapsing.  Event monitors are worn for up to 30 days and the ECG is recorded when the button is pushed, allowing the owner to record an ECG directly when an episode is occurring.

Blood Pressure Monitoring

If indicated, your pet’s blood pressure will be measured in the examination room while you are present to help relax your pet.

Minimally-Invasive Cardiac Intervention and Cardiac Surgery

Our cardiologists specialize in assessment and correction of cardiac disease. Cardiac procedures are frequently performed using minimally-invasive corrective techniques (utilizing catheters and trans-vascular approaches rather than surgery).

• Pacemakers
• Patent Ductus Arteriosus Correction
• Pulmonic Stenosis Balloon Valvuloplasty

Medical Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure and other causes of coughing and respiratory disress

A cardiac evaluation is often the cornerstone of evaluating a pet with coughing or difficultly breathing. Your primary veterinarian can help you determine if a cardiac evaluation is appropriate for your pet. Heart failure is a condition in which fluid congestion develops secondary to a sick heart.

Arrhythmia diagnosis and management

Arrhythmias are a disruption to the normal electrical activity of the heart.  Arrhythmias can be benign or can be life threatening.  An electrocardiogram is the method used to diagnose specific arrhythmias, and treatment with antiarrhythmic medication or interventional treatment (pacemaker) may be recommended.


Pericardiocentesis is removal of fluid from the sac around the heart (pericardial effusion).  Pericardiocentesis can be an emergency procedure, as pericardial effusion can cause shock symptoms.  The patient is clipped and prepped, an ECG is monitored closely, local anesthesia is given as well as sedation in some patients, and a large catheter is advanced into the pericardial space.  Fluid is then drained and analyzed.


Thoracocentesis is removal of fluid from the chest cavity (pleural effusion).  Thoracocentesis can be an emergency procedure, as pleural effusion can cause respiratory distress, especially in cats.  Removal of the fluid is often necessary to stabilize an animal.  A small area is clipped and cleanly prepped, and then a catheter is inserted into the chest cavity and fluid is drained and submitted for analysis.


Abdominocentesis is removal of fluid from the abdominal cavity (ascites).  Removal of the fluid often relieves discomfort in an animal.  A small area is clipped and cleanly prepped, and then a catheter is inserted into the abdominal cavity and fluid is drained and submitted for analysis.

OFA Certification

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals ( is a breed registry/database for purebred animals.  If you intend to breed your animal, and it is a breed for which cardiac disease is known or suspected to be inherited, you should have your animal screened for cardiac disease prior to breeding.  You can download the forms at the OFA website listed above.  Please fill in the appropriate sections prior to your pet’s certification appointment.

Our Locations

Main Office (Open 24 hrs)

VCA Emergency Animal Hospital & Referral Center
2317 Hotel Circle South
San Diego, CA 92108
Tel: 619.299.2400
Fax: 619.299.9068
Request an appointment:

Satellite Locations

Desert Veterinary Specialists
42-065 Washington Street, Suite D
Palm Desert, CA 92211
Tel: 760.772.2222
Fax: 760.772.2884

California Veterinary Specialists
Murrieta Hospital
39809 Avenida Acacias, Suite E
Murrieta, CA 92563
Tel: 951.600.9803
Fax: 951.600.7758

California Veterinary Specialists
Carlsbad Hospital
2310 Faraday Ave.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Tel: 760.431.2273
Fax: 760.431.1084

To schedule an appointment with one of our cardiologists, please contact your nearest location directly.