View All Articles

Frequently Asked Questions: Cardiology

Cardiology at VRC


How can I detect heart complications and diseases in my pet?

Regular check-up appointments with your family veterinarian are essential in making sure that your pet is heart-healthy.  In many cases, your family veterinarian will be able to detect a heart complication through listening to the beat patterns, X-rays, EKGs, and/or performing routine blood tests. If an abnormality is found, he or she will refer you to a Cardiologist at VRC.

What symptoms might my pet display if he or she is experiencing a heart problem?

If your pet has progressing heart disease, he or she may show observable symptoms. In dogs, these symptoms include gagging cough, fainting, weakness or reluctance to exercise, rapid resting or sleep breathing rates (more than 30 breaths per minute), and abdominal swelling. Cats may faint, have an increased rate of abdominal breathing, experience lethargy, painful limbs or limb paralysis, and they may hide more than usual. Be sure to make an appointment with your family veterinarian as soon as possible if you witness any combination of these symptoms in your pet.

What is a cardiac consultation at VRC like?

A cardiac consultation at VRC consists of a thorough evaluation of the heart and includes a physical exam, echocardiogram (test that displays real-time heart structure and function imaging), Doppler ultrasound, blood speed studies, and electrocardiogram (test that monitors the heart’s electric activity). At VRC, we utilize state-of-the-art equipment to perform all tests, which are each essential in effectively evaluating your pet’s heart.

Can I be present during my pet’s cardiac examination?

Yes, we encourage you to be with your pet during his or her cardiac consultation. This will help your pet feel calm and comfortable, and also allow you to observe the heart tests being performed. After the exam, please feel free to ask any questions that you may have about the consultation and your pet’s heart health.

Can I pick and choose which cardiac tests are performed on my pet?

No, we perform the same cardiac tests with each consultation. Our carefully selected series of tests are needed to decide the best medical treatment for your pet and to determine whether or not further diagnostic procedures are required.

Are the cardiac tests painful for my pet?

Not at all! All of our tests are completely noninvasive. The ultrasound has a massaging action that is completely painless and our EKG clips are nothing like what is used in human medicine; they are surprisingly comfortable. Your pet will be gently positioned on the side of a towel and will be awake and comforted throughout the entire procedure. The vast majority of pets require no sedation and there are no side effects to these tests. Many patients look forward to their visits with our team and have become close friends with our staff members!

Do the tests leave any bruising or physical marks on my pet?

Not at all! Your pet will look exactly the same and no one would be able to tell that he or she was in the hospital if you don’t tell them. We don’t even need to shave your pet for these tests, as we use alcohol to mat down the hair instead; a completely painless coupling gel is also applied for use during ultrasounds.

Can my pet’s heart condition be treated?

For the most part, if your pet is diagnosed with and treated for heart disease early on, he or she has a good chance at successful symptom management and living a long, healthy life. Once your pet is diagnosed, we have an extensive medical arsenal and will do what we can to provide your pet with a good quality of life for as long as possible. If your pet is diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at birth, surgery may be feasible to correct the condition. Early detection and a personalized treatment plan from a veterinary cardiologist will help manage your pet’s disease and improve his or her overall quality of life. Even advanced heart disease and heart failure may be treatable, so it is never too late for your pet to get a cardiac consultation.

You have recommended that my pet take medication. How do I fill this prescription?

At the end of the exam, the drugs that your pet needs can be dispensed at VRC.  In many cases, your prescription can be filled at almost any pharmacy, so please feel free to price shop; however, a popular cardiac drug called VetMedin must be filled at a veterinary source. You can also utilize our online pharmacy with Vets First Choice for hundreds of guaranteed products and convenient shipping right to your home.

Preparing for Surgery: A Pet Owner’s Guide

Sometimes pets need a surgical procedure. It’s no one’s favorite part of owning a pet, but being prepared about what to expect can lessen a lot of your anxieties when you get the news from your specialty veterinarian in Philadelphia.

Pet surgeries can be worrisome, whether your pet needs something routine like a tooth extraction or something serious like a malignant skin mass removal. You’ll want to prepare your pet as best you can, and in this regard, the best advice to follow is whatever your Philadelphia area veterinary surgeon tells you to do. Heeding your vet’s directions is of paramount importance. Even if you have a friend whose pet went through the same procedure, if he or she tells you to do something different, clear it with your vet first.

Most of the instructions your vet will give you will be common sense. They may ask you to reduce liquid intake or food intake. They may need you to give your pet a special medication or ask you to give your dog a bath or trim their nails. You may even be asked to reduce your pet’s activity level, whether by going on shorter walks or eliminating family roughhousing for a few days.

Your dog or cat isn’t the only member of your family who will need to be prepped for your pet’s surgery, however. Your family will also need some preparation, especially if you have small children. Make sure you talk to them in general terms about what your pet will be going through, and start a dialogue about it. Ask them if they have any questions, and relay an age-appropriate amount of information about the procedure. Your children may have a lot of feelings, worries, fears about a pet surgery, especially if there’s been a (human) family member who has been through something similar.

It’s also good to talk to your child about the importance of aftercare for your pet once they get out of surgery and come home. If your pet has been under anesthesia, they may be woozy when they come home, for example; if they’re wearing a cone or a bandage, make sure your kids know not to mess with it. And make sure that playtime is monitored—children may not realize how slowly bodies heal and may want things to get “back to normal” immediately, which is often not possible.

Speaking of aftercare, sticking to your vet’s aftercare routine is just as if not more important than following their preparatory instructions. Often, vets will provide you with aftercare instructions on a sheet of paper. Make sure to go over it with your vet so that the instructions are crystal clear to you, and call if you have any questions. Your pet’s recovery is often in your hands, so ensure that you understand what your pet’s needs will be post-surgery, and make sure your whole family understands, too.

VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital in the Philadelphia area. We have advanced surgical facilities and are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Welcome Justin Guinan, DVM, DACVIM (SA-IM)!

We are thrilled to welcome our newest internist, Justin Guinan, DVM, DACVIM (SA-IM)!

The VRC team is growing! We are excited to announce that Dr. Justin Guinan is the newest internist at VRC! He brings with him years of experience and skill in the field of internal medicine.


  • Endoscopy with biopsy collection (esophagoscopy, gastroduodenoscopy, colonoscopy, rhinoscopy, nasopharyngoscopy, tracheoscopy, bronchoscopy, cystoscopy)
  • Abdominal ultrasonography (with aspiration or biopsy if indicated)
  • Diagnostic airway sampling (endotracheal wash, bronchoalveolar lavage)
  • Bone marrow collection (aspiration or biopsy)
  • Diagnostic/therapeutic fluid collection (cystocentesis, arthrocentesis, CSF tap, thoracocentesis, abdominocentesis)
  • Phone Consultations with Veterinarians
  • Available for Lunch & Learns



A native of Westchester County, New York; Justin Guinan, DVM, DACVIM (SA-IM) began his veterinary career in 2000 with a BS in biology from Syracuse University, followed by a DVM degree from Atlantic Veterinary College in 2005. Later that year, Dr. Guinan enrolled in a yearlong general internship program, followed by another yearlong specialty internship program in internal medicine and neurology at Long Island Veterinary Specialists. In 2009, he went on to complete his residency in small animal internal medicine at the Animal Medical Center in New York City.  With years of experience, education, and a board certification under his belt, Dr. Guinan worked at a large specialty and emergency veterinary hospital in New Jersey for several years before joining the VRC team in 2017.  His clinical interests include hematology, endocrinology, ultrasonography, and all forms of diagnostic endoscopy. Outside of work, Dr. Guinan enjoys spending time with his wife and two young sons, baseball, football, hiking, and music.


If you are a referring veterinarian and would like to schedule a Meet & Greet or Lunch & Learn with Dr. Guinan or any of our other doctors, please contact
Brian Haugen at

To learn more about VRC and the many services that we offer, give us a call at (610) 647-2950.

How to Help Prevent Cold Weather from Affecting Your Pet’s Health

pet-clothesAutumn is coming to an end, and with it, the mild temperatures we’ve enjoyed while taking our dogs on walks through the park, or letting our cats stroll around our yards. Yes, the mercury is dropping—we’re starting to see lows in the 30s and the 40s, and the weather reports are calling for above average snowfall and lower temperatures than normal. We’ll be getting our cold weather gear out of storage soon, and warming up the cars before we hit the road to work in the morning. But how should we prepare for the way cold weather affects our companion animals?

While our dogs and cats may already be wearing a fur coat, winter affects them, too. Whether your dog or cat is used to spending a lot of time outside, or is left at home indoors all day while you’re at work, winter means some changes for them. But with a bit of common sense, they’ll be just fine when the snow begins to fall.

Most pets will be all right during the winter with an average indoor temperature that’s comfortable for humans, even if you, like most people, save money and energy by turning down your heater to 65 degrees or so when you’re at work. But cold tolerance varies from animal to animal, whether you have a dog, cat, or a more exotic pet, so just be aware of your pet’s needs. Older animals get colder more easily, and if your dog or cat has had some recent health issues, it might be a good idea to keep the house a bit warmer for them. Just use your judgment, or ask your veterinarian in the greater Philadelphia area if you have any questions about keeping your dog or cat comfortable when the wind is howling.

For pets who go outside, it’s a good idea to go on shorter walks when the cold weather sets in. Not only are they subject to exposure just like people, but older dogs who suffer from arthritis may have a lot of trouble walking on icy paths or uneven, snowy streets. While short walks are fine for most dogs, just be aware of your pet’s limitations. If your dog has a heart condition or a hormonal imbalance like Cushing’s disease, it may be difficult for them to keep their body temperature up. And even a healthy dog with short legs will find their belly closer to the snow and freezing ground, causing them to get cold more quickly!

As for cats, we all know that for indoor-outdoor cats, keeping them happy even when the weather is nice can be a challenge. Even if they meow, it’s a good idea to keep your cats inside when it gets cold, especially as evening falls. Your cat’s fur will not protect them if they stay outside all night—hypothermia and frostbite are real risks, necessitating a visit to your local specialty veterinary healthcare hospital.

For cats who spend the night out of doors, a car can seem like an appealing shelter. Wheel wells close to a car’s engine can stay warm long into the night, and as you know, cats can worm their way into the most unlikely spaces, which can sometimes mean getting into your car’s engine compartment. So, if you leave your car outside in the winter, you can be a friend to local neighborhood cats and strays by pounding on the hood before you crank the engine—you might just save a life.

If you have concerns for your pet this winter, go ahead and schedule a winter wellness exam with your family veterinarian! Your Philadelphia area veterinarian will be happy to talk to you about ways to keep your dog or cat warm, healthy, and happy until the spring.

VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital located in the greater Philadelphia area. Our emergency medicine and critical care center is open 24/7, 365 days a year. If you have concerns about your dog or cat’s health this winter, give us a call.