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Atrial Fibrillation in Dogs

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-depth

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize all AF, and exclude all other diseases. These tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination

  • Physical examination and examination of the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. This will identify the chaotic rhythm and prompt an electrocardiogram (EKG). The presence of congestive heart failure can also be determined from this examination.

  • An EKG is needed to diagnose the rhythm with certainty and to exclude other electrical disturbances of the heart. This study is done in a manner similar to that used in people.

  • Chest X-rays are important to gauge the size of the heart and detect congestive heart failure. This will appear as fluid accumulation in the lungs, called pulmonary edema, or fluid accumulation in the chest cavity, called pleural effusion.

  • An echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, is needed to diagnosis the underlying heart disease with certainty. This noninvasive, painless examination can display heart size, disease (lesions) and heart muscle function.

  • Serum biochemical tests (blood tests) and a urinalysis should be obtained with special interest directed to kidney function and blood electrolytes.

  • Thyroid function should be measured in dogs receiving supplementation with thyroxine.

  • An heartworm(HW) antigen test should be done if appropriate for geographic area.

  • Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests or refer you to a specialist to insure optimal medical care. These are selected on a case-by-case basis.

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