Frequently Asked Questions


What is an ECG?


An ECG is a recording, at the body surface, of the heart's electrical activity.

ECG Components

P is the waveform generated by the firing of the pacemaker and depolarization of the atria.

Q is the first phase of ventricular depolarization and represents the electrical activity coming from the ventricular system. Not all normal ECGs will have a visible Q wave.

R is the largest waveform in most ECG leads and represents the electrical activity of the apex and free walls of the ventricles.

S is the first phase of depolarization of the ventricles and originates from the muscle at the base of the heart. Not all normal ECGs will have an S wave.

T is the repolarization of the ventricles.


When should an ECG be performed?


New Patients

  • This is to establish a baseline reading so that changes will be detectable in future exams.


  • Age is a major factor in heart health. Start annual tests at age 6 to detect disease early.

When Warning Signs Exist

  • Weight loss/gain
  • Coughing, excessive panting
  • Lethargy, exercise intolerance
  • Seizures

Clinical Conditions

  • Traumatic injury
  • Pre-anesthetic work-up
  • Anesthetic monitoring
  • Intensive care monitoring
  • Evaluation of response to certain drugs
  • Post-exercise monitoring
  • Severe infections
  • Acute conditions such as shock


Why perform an ECG?


Emotional Value

  • 92% of pet owners consider their pet a family member.
  • 70% of pet owners view their pet's health as important as their own.
  • There has been an increase in geriatric dogs and cats as a percentage of the pet population.

Clinical Value

  • To monitor or asses heart rate and rhythm.
  • An ECG is particularly good at detecting alterations in heart rhythm. In fact, it is not possible to diagnose specific rhythm abnormalities without the ECG.
  • Alterations around the heart may cause an abnormal position of the heart, which will lead to changes in the electrocardiogram
  • An ECG can detect changes in the size of various parts of the heart when they produce changes in the waveform.
    • Right or left ventricular enlargement
    • Bi-ventricular enlargement
    • Right or left atrial enlargement
    • Bilateral enlargement
  • Identifying heart irregularities allows the clinician to avoid sedatives/anesthetics that could cause complications during routine procedures.


How do I perform an ECG?


Lead Attachment

  • Place the animal in right lateral recumbency. The spine should be straight and the forelimbs should be perpendicular to the spine and parallel to each other.
  • Preparing the skin is very important. Clean area of attachment with isopropyl alcohol.
  • Spray ECG conductivity solution over the alcohol to provide good contact with the skin.
  • Attach the electrocardiographic leads just below the olecranon on the forelimbs and just below the stifle on the rear limbs. Make sure the clips do not contact a metal surface, the chest, or each other.
    Red - Left Leg Green - Right leg
    Black - Left Arm White - Right Arm
  • Hold the animal firmly to prevent any movement.
  • Always clean the ECG clips after each use with alcohol or detergent water.

Attaching the Leads for Limb Surgery

  • The leads should be placed, as close as possible, in the same configuration as the standard attachment. For the forelegs, connect at the base of the neck. For the rear legs, connect anywhere at the margin of the ribs. In any case, if a stump is available, connect the lead to it.

Lead Attachment for Long-term Monitoring

  • Irritation to the animal's skin may be avoided by
    1. using self-stick paste electrode pads,
    2. using "human strap" lead attachments, or
    3. placing a needle in the clips and using standard needle attachment.


Do I need a computer for your products?


Yes, you need a personal computer with the Vetronics ECG and/or VitalScan product(s). One computer can be used to operate both products.


Will Vetronics products work in countries other than the United States?


Yes, our products have an international self-changing power supply.


Can I use the computer that is located in another room?


This is not recommended since you are interacting with the keyboard and monitor while performing diagnostic work on the animal.


Can I use a Macintosh computer?


No, this computer will not properly interface with the Vetronics hardware.


Can I use a computer without a serial port?


Yes, a USB to Serial adapter may be used to connect to your PC. You will also need to install the USB drivers that come with the adapter.


Does the computer have to be dedicated?


No the computer can be used for other purposes, such as filling pharmacy prescriptions.


What other software can I use on the ECG computer?


Provided that the computer has room on its hard drive, it can be used for many other purposes such as a terminal on your practice management system. Another good use is for accessing information off the Internet.


Can I use the Vetronics equipment for surgical monitoring?


Yes, the system can be used both for surgical monitoring, as well as diagnostic testing.


Can files from the Vetronics software be transferred to our Practice Management software?


Yes, Monitor and Diagnostic reports may be copied and then pasted into patient files within most practice management software's.


What do I do when I get the warning message "Analyzer Not Connected" or my software says "ECG Analyzer and/or VitalScan not found"?


First, check to make sure power is turned on. Second, check the cable connections and make sure they are all tight. Next go into the setup menu and check the serial port setting. Next turn off the computer as well as the ECG and/or VitalScan equipment, and then restart them to see if the problem corrects itself. Finally, call Vetronics 800-654-6327 if the problems persist.


What do I do when my ECG tracing is noisy?


First check that alligator clips are firmly attached to the animal. Next, check if your alligator clips are corroding. If your system is being used on a daily basis, the alligator clips usually need to be replaced every six months. Finally, check your patient cable for damage. The typical life span of an ECG patient cable is 3 to 5 years.


How do I request a consultation with the Vetronics veterinarian?


Fax or email Vetronics a consultation request form along with any pertinent ECG reports and history on the animal to 765/742-6699 or


What can I do if I get a flat ECG lead?


First, try turning off the power to the ECG analyzer, turn back on and then redo the ECG measurement. If problem persists, try another animal. Finally call Vetronics customer service for assistance.