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The importance of cardiovascular checks in vet triage

Explore how to do a veterinary cardiovascular check.
A medical practitioner, wearing gloves, picks up a hemostatic clamp or forceps.
Assessment of pulse rate, peripheral pulse quality, mucous membrane (MM) colour, capillary refill time (CRT), and auscultation.

After checking the respiratory system, it is time to check the cardiovascular system:

  • Is the patient tachycardic (>120 beats per minute (bpm) for a dog, >180 bpm for a cat)?
  • Is the patient bradycardic (<60 bpm for a dog (some dogs that are very fit/large may have a heart rate as low as 40, so this needs to be considered alongside other signs), <140 bpm for a cat)?
  • Are the peripheral pulses strong?
  • Are the pulses regular? If not are they regularly irregular (e.g. sinus arrhythmia) or irregularly irregular? Are there any pulse deficits? Palpation of the metatarsal or metacarpal pulse is vital for assessment of pulse quality. All legs should be felt as there can be variation in some cases, e.g. arterial thromboembolism.
  • Are the MM pink? If not are they brick red/pale/white/icteric/cyanotic? Is the CRT 1–2 seconds? If not is it <1 second? or >2 seconds?
  • Auscultation? Any murmur/arrhythmia? Auscultation is important to determine arrhythmias, murmurs, and lung sounds, such as crackles, wheezes, and dullness.

If there is a concern about poor pulse quality, arrhythmias, tachycardia, bradycardia the patient should be admitted immediately for further monitoring, diagnostics and treatment.

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Veterinary Administration: Admission and Triage

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