Veterinary Specialists: Cardiologist

by Nancy Kay, DVM 

To the veterinary cardiologist, no organ is as important or revered as the ever-beating heart. 

Electrocardiogram. Photo NVCC

My oh my how they adore those valves, those chambers, the great vessels, and the steady “lub dub” rhythm of the body’s all important pump.

During residency training, those wanting to become cardiac specialists practically live with stethoscopes in their ears. 

They run hundreds of electrocardiograms (EKG’s), interpret thousands of chest X-rays, perform gazillions of echocardiograms (cardiac ultrasound examinations), and become adept at implanting pacemakers, repairing cardiac birth defects, and treating patients with heart disease.

When should your dog be evaluated by a board certified veterinary cardiologist? 

I strongly encourage you to consider this when:

  • Your dog is suspected of having a birth defect within the heart.

  • Your family vet hears a heart murmur when ausculting your dog (listening to the chest with a stethoscope). The cardiologist will be able to determine the cause of the murmur as well as whether or not it is likely to impact your dog’s health.

  • Your dog has a heart issue that your family vet has not been able to clearly diagnose.

  • Your dog has been diagnosed with a type of heart disease with which your family veterinarian has limited experience. Far better that treatment be administered by someone who has done so hundreds if not thousands of times rather than only a few times (or never before).

  • Your dog has a heart health issue that isn’t getting any better or is getting worse in spite of therapy prescribed by your family vet.

  • You simply want to be more certain about the advice you’ve received from your family vet.

  • The breed you fancy is predisposed to heart disease. For example, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels develop degenerative changes with the heart’s mitral valve (this valve separates the left ventricle from the left atrium). Maine Coon cats are prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle thickens and impairs normal function. Early screening of the heart (before symptoms arise) will establish a baseline for future comparison and help predict the likely clinical course.

To find a board certified veterinary cardiologist within your community or learn more about this specialty, visit the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and look for the subspecialty of cardiology. Veterinary cardiologists are a somewhat rare breed. If you cannot find one relatively close by, consultation with a specialist in internal medicine will be your next best bet.

Have you and your dog ever visited a veterinary cardiologist? 

What was the reason and what was the outcome?

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Did you get your copy of Speaking for Spot yet?

If not, go get the book. It's likely the most important dog book you'll ever read.

Articles by Dr. Kay:
Reasonable Expectations: The Ability to Discuss Your Internet Research With Your Vet
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Even The Best Veterinarian Can Make A Mistake
A Different Way to Spay
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog: Lily's Story
If You Don't Know What A Lick Granuloma Is, Count Your Blessings!
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning 
Talking Teeth 
Urinary Accidents
I Can't Believe He Ate That! Foreign Body Ingestion 
What Caused Murphy's And Ruska'sPneumothorax?
The Whole Picture: When The Test Results Don't Match What's In Front Of You 
Stop that Scratching
Veterinarians And Vaccines: A Slow Learning Curve
What is a Veterinary Specialist? 
Veterinary Specialists: Oncologist