Cornell University Hospital for Animals


Hospital Services
Companion Animal

Companion Animal
(607) 253-3060

Make an Appointment

  • The cardiology service receives appointments Monday through Thursday between 9am and 12pm with workup and discharges occurring in the afternoon.
  • Please call 607-253-3060 to schedule your appointment.

Prepare for your Appointment

  • If your pet has never been a patient at our hospital before, then after making your appointment, please submit the online Client/Patient Registration form.
  • Please bring a current rabies certificate to present upon arrival to our hospital.
  • Please bring any pertinent medical records and/or images to your appointment, or have them faxed to 607-253-3788.
  • Payment is required at the time of service (see Financial Info).

Arrhythmia Mapping and Ablation

Cardiac mapping and ablation (also called catheter ablation; radiofrequency ablation) is a procedure used to diagnose and treat abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). It consists in finding (mapping) the precise location of the source of the arrhythma with catheters that are threaded through blood vessels and guided into various areas of the cardiac chambers. The abnormal heart tissue is then destroyed (ablated) using radiofrequency energy (heat).Inline image 1

This technique is used to treat arrhythmias that cause rapid heart rates. It is an alternative to antiarrhythmic drugs, when these medications fail to control an arrhythmia or when they are associated with side-effects. Catheter ablation can be curative.

How do I know that my pet is a candidate for an ablation procedure?
Currently cardiac ablation is only performed in dogs. Dogs with arrhythmias that can be treated with this procedure might experience episodes of weakness or fainting, exercise intolerance and extended periods of panting, and even heart failure. Because not all arrhythmias can be treated via cardiac ablation, several diagnostic tests, performed by a board-certified cardiologist are necessary to determine if your pet is a candidate.

Which arrhythmias are treatable with cardiac ablation?
The arrhythmias that are treatable with this procedure are called tachycardia because they are responsible for rapid heart rates, on occasion above 300 beats/minute. Most of these tachycardias originate from the upper portion of the heart, above the ventricles, and are called supraventricular tachycardias. They include: Inline image 4

  • Accessory pathway-mediated tachycardia (atrioventricular orthodromic reciprocating tachycardia)
    • Common in Labradors and Boxers
    • >90% success rate with ablation
  • Focal atrial tachycardia
    • 55% to 60% success rate with ablation
  • Atrial flutter
    • Common in Bernese Mountain dogs and Dogue de Bordeaux
    • 60% to 95% success rate depending on the type of atrial flutter
  • Persistent atrial fibrillation

Some specific forms of ventricular tachycardia, that occur in English bulldogs, can be treated with cardiac ablation.

Which tests are required to determine if my dog can be treated with this technique?
In order to determine if your pet can benefit from cardiac ablation, the following tests need to be performed:

  • An electrocardiogram (12-lead ECG)
  • An echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart
  • A 24-hour Holter, which is a 24-hour recording of an ECG
  • Blood tests

What should I expect when I bring my dog to Cornell?
Your pet will usually be hospitalized the day before and will be able to go home the day after the procedure. Blood tests will usually be performed at the time of admission. The day of the procedure, your dog will be placed under general anesthesia and hair will be clipped in various areas of his body. Catheters will be inserted into veins from the neck and groin regions. Continuous X-ray imaging, called fluoroscopy, will be used to guide the catheters into various areas of the cardiac chambers. Once in place, the catheters will be used to record the electrical activity of the heart and trigger the arrhythmia using specialized equipment. Finally, radiofrequency energy will be delivered from a catheter where the arrhythmia is originating from to destroy the abnormal heart tissue. The procedure takes 3 to 4 hours. Your dog’s recovery will be monitored overnight in the intensive care unit. Inline image 3

Are there risks associated with this procedure?
Cardiac ablation is generally safe. We will discuss with you some rare complications:

  • Bleeding where the catheters are inserted
  • Anesthetic complications, adverse drug reactions
  • Fluid around the heart (cardiac tamponade)
  • Damage to the normal cardiac electrical conduction system, causing slow heart rate (bradycardia) and requiring pacemaker implantation
  • Damage to the heart valves, walls and large vessels
  • Ventricular fibrillation

Are rechecks needed after the procedure?
In order to confirm that the ablation was successful, we recommend that you bring your pet back to Cornell for a recheck evaluation approximately 1 month after the procedure. An echocardiogram, a 12-lead ECG and a 24-hour Holter are performed at the time of the visit. If it is not possible for you to come back to Cornell, these tests can also be done by your local board-certified cardiologist, who will share the results with us.

When can cardiac ablation be performed on my pet?
We are currently not able to perform cardiac ablations year-round. In 2017/2018, we will perform ablations during the following weeks:


·      Between 10/08/2017 and 11/4/2017

·      Between 02/19/2018 and 03/08/2018

·      Between 06/18/2018 and 07/06/2018

·      Between 10/08/2018 and 11/4/2018

Always have your veterinarian first contact us before referring you and your dog to the cardiology service at Cornell University Hospital for Animals for an ablation procedure.