Cardiologist vs. Vet
Kingston had his heart checked this weekend by a board-certified cardiologist at the North Texas Cavalier Fun Day. Luckily, he tested clear. My question is...I'm not sure what I expected from the cardiologist, but I was surprised that she simply listened to his chest with a stethoscope. What is she doing that a vet can't do? Just curious.
That's called an auscultation. The difference is the difference between a GP listening to your own heart, and a cardiologist. Your GP might or might not notice anything is wrong, and if they notice, they probably will not be able to accurately assess what is going on. Cardiologists (human or vet) have a huge amount of additional training and study for their speciality and their entire focus is listening to hearts and understanding what is going on. :)
Vets miss half of all murmurs before a dog is aged 5 and frequently get the grade of the murmur wrong as well. So a cardiologist will give you a far more accurate assessment and is twice as likely to hear an early grade murmur in a younger dog.
Thanks Karlin. So basically, the equipment is the same. A cardiologist just knows what to listen for?
My father, who was a prof of medicine and specialist in respiratory diseases (now retired), told me it is the same for a respiratory specialist. A GP will always listen to your lungs when you go for a check-up -- and depending on skill can hear and understand a certain degree of what might be going on. But a specialist can hear and know the significance of tiny elements a GP probably won't ever notice. A good specialist can hear evidence of specific lung diseases simply from hearing you breathe.
Vets, like GPs, are trained to be able to do lots and lots of things for lots of types of animals and are the front line of care. Specialists take over when a problem goes beyond what a GP is trained to do.
For most dogs, a vet is probably fine for listening to hearts, but for cavaliers, who almost all will eventually have heart problems, it can be very important to hear early problems when they exist and that tends to take a specialist.
That said some vets are really good at hearing murmurs and guessing the grade -- but that's the difference, a vet will be guessing the grade, a cardiologist can listen and GIVE a grade. If Pat sees this I am sure she will comment as she knows this area really well.
Also see this table which compares what vets and cardios pick up in cavaliers:
It's amazing how much information a veterinary cardiologist can give you when he/she hears a murmur. A vet just hears the murmur if it's loud enough. A cardio will tell you which side of the heart, which valve, and all kinds of additional descriptive/diagnostic information.