At-Home Heart Rhythm Monitoring Helps Doctors Detect Pets’ Abnormal Heartbeats

Learn more about the tools available to monitor your pet’s heart health from SAGE staff cardiologists, Dr. Andrew Waxman & Dr. Lauren Markovic.

heart-monitoring1At-home heart rhythm monitoring, also known as ambulatory monitoring, is indicated to detect the presence and/or severity of an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). An in-hospital electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) can record several minutes of your pet’s heart rhythm; however, in many cases an arrhythmia may be intermittent. If there is suspicion that an arrhythmia is present, a longer ECG recording is often recommended. This is indicated if your pet experiences intermittent episodes of weakness or collapse. It can also be helpful if an arrhythmia is detected on examination, as a long-term monitor would help predict the overall frequency and severity of that arrhythmia.

There are a few types of at-home ECG monitors that are available. Each has its own benefits and can be discussed with you based on your pet’s needs.

24-hour Holter monitoring: This monitor provides a multiple lead recording of your pet’s heart rhythm. The digital device records the ECG and is attached by multiple adhesive skin electrodes. It does require clipping of the fur on both sides of the chest. There are multiple lead wires that are kept snug under a soft vest or bandage material, which keeps your pet from scratching them off prematurely. The results of this monitor are usually available 2-3 business days after return of the unit.

Patch ECG monitoring: This monitor provides a single lead recording of your pet’s heart rhythm. The adhesive skin electrode and digital device are an all-in-one unit that is worn over the left side of your pet’s chest. It will record, as long as the patch stays attached to your pet, up to 14 days of your pet’s ECG. This monitor is useful for pets that have very infrequent episodes as a longer recording period may catch an event.

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Event monitor: This monitor can be worn for several days to weeks. It is worn in similar fashion to a traditional Holter. It is not continuously recording, but rather, is triggered either by an abnormal heart rate or rhythm. It can also be triggered to record if the owner sees an episode and pushes the event button on the unit. This technique is useful for very intermittent episodes that may not be captured on either a 24-hour or 14-day monitor. This recording is often cumbersome for the pet and owner, requiring constant attention to recognize if the leads remain attached.

Implantable loop recorder: This monitor is a small surgically implanted ECG recorder. It does require sedation and a local anesthetic for implantation, and is performed as a single-day procedure. The unit functions similar to an event monitor, but is less cumbersome due to the implanted nature of the device. There is also a device for a pet owner to mark an event. For interpretation, the patient will need to come into the hospital. An external device communicates with the recorder by radio frequency through the skin. It can function for upwards of two years for continued monitoring of arrhythmias.