Our cardiologists evaluate, diagnose and treat congenital and acquired heart diseases. This comprehensive practice offers specialized diagnostics and invasive procedures relevant to management of cardiovascular diseases in pets.

As a specialized practice within a multi-speciality hospital, we provide integrated specialized care for pets with complex, multi-systemic disease and assist in the management of cardiac complications of other disease processes. When necessary, we make recommendations for and facilitate transfer to our surgeons when surgical intervention or therapy is required.

We work closely with your regular veterinarian to keep them updated on our findings and recommendations and partner with them to provide for your pet’s ongoing care.

Check in form

Click here to download the editable check in form for the Cardiology department and email to ovcreception@metropolitanvet.com

Getting Treatment

If your veterinarian has evaluated your pet and recommended that he or she make an appointment with one of our Board-Certified Specialists, we ask that your veterinarian complete our referral form.

Click here to download our Referral Form

Our Services

Echocardiogram

The echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. Our highly sophisticated echocardiograph is the same equipment used in human hospitals such as Akron General and the Cleveland Clinic. With this machine, we obtain two dimensional views of the heart, including all four chambers of the heart, valves and major blood vessels. Using Doppler, we can also evaluate the speed, direction, and quality of blood flow. The picture from an echocardiogram is much more detailed information about the heart than a radiograph and involves no radiation exposure. The echocardiogram is non-invasive and does not require anesthesia, although a light sedative may be used, on rare occasion, for some of our uncooperative patients or in puppies and kittens.

Chest Radiographs

Radiographs are one of the most common diagnostics performed. Radiographs, or x-rays, of the chest are usually done to evaluate heart size and the lung fields. Congestive heart failure is diagnosed when the radiographs show evidence of fluid in the lungs in conjunction with cardiac changes. X-rays are a non-invasive test. The patient is placed on their side for one view and then on their back for the second view. The results are ready within seconds and available for interpretation by Dr. Hitchcock, Dr. Villalba, and our radiologists (IDEXX Teleradiology).

Blood Pressure

Monitoring your pet’s blood pressure is often important in caring for him/her in the face of heart disease. This is another non-invasive procedure performed a little differently than in human medicine. We measure your pet’s front leg (tail and rear legs work as well) and based on that measurement choose the proper cuff size for the limb. Instead of using a stethoscope to listen for blood flow return after inflating and then slowly deflating the cuff, we use a Doppler device which amplifies the sound of the blood flow. With the Doppler we are able to measure the systolic (top number) blood pressure. Normal blood pressure in a dog is 100-160 mmHg, and in a cat is 110-160 mmHg.

Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG)

An ECG is a recording of the electrical activity in your pet’s heart. It is used most commonly to diagnose an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, in your pet. Changes on the ECG can also suggest enlargement of specific heart chambers. This is a non-invasive procedure where we have the capability to evaluate your pet’s heart rhythm by a rhythm strip (leads I, II, and III), 6-lead and 12-lead ECGs. We look at multiple leads to evaluate the electrical activity from different locations of your pet’s body.

Holter Monitor

A Holter monitor is a special ECG recording device that your pet would wear home for heart rhythm monitoring purposes. Holter Monitors are worn for 24 hours, but in some cases can be worn for up to a week. A Holter is most commonly used to look for transient arrhythmias that may be missed on an in-clinic ECG, to evaluate frequency and severity of an arrhythmia, and to monitor response to anti-arrhythmic therapy.

Loop Recorder

An Loop Recorder is also a way to look for transient arrhythmia in a pet that is having collapse or other unexplained symptoms. This device is implanted superficially under the skin over the heart during a very brief anesthesia. This monitor has a battery life of up to three years and has a several minute period of heart rhythm in its memory that is consistently updated.  When certain criteria are met, or when the Owner witnesses an event and triggers the device, that period of heart rhythm (about 7 minutes) around the trigger is stored for later retrieval.  Once an animal has an event, we can download the information from the device non-invasively at a quick appointment.  These monitors are used to investigate intermittent episodes of collapse when no other reason for the collapse can be identified with a thorough work-up.

Fluoroscopy

Fluoroscopy provides a moving image type of radiograph. It is a non-invasive tool but does involve radiation exposure and is usually done in a sedated or anesthetized patient. In cardiology, fluoroscopy is a vital tool for performing invasive diagnostics and procedures such a cardiac catheterization, angiography, and pacemaker implantion.

Cardiac catheterization and angiography

Because animals do not commonly suffer from coronary disease (unlike their human owners) and since most congenital and acquired diseases can be diagnosed non-invasively by echocardiography, cardiac catheterization and angiography are most often performed in association with invasive procedures or in cases which a definitive diagnosis cannot be made by echocardiography. Cardiac catheterizations are performed in anesthetized animals and most commonly involve passing specialized catheters via either the jugular vein or carotid artery in the neck or femoral artery or vein in the leg into the great vessels and heart. Pressures can be measured and special dye studies (angiography) can be done to outline cardiac structures.

Invasive Procedures

The most common cardiac invasive procedures performed at Metropolitan are pacemaker implantation, balloon valvuloplasty, and ductal occlusion of patient ductus arteriosus. Pacemakers are implanted for abnormal heart rhythms that cause the heart to beat too slowly or result in pauses in the heart beat. Balloon valvuloplasty is most commonly done for palliation of a birth defect of the pulmonic valve that prevents this valve from opening normally. A specialized balloon catheter is passed across the abnormal valve and inflated to tear open the valve and allow easier passage of blood into the lungs. The Amplatz Canine Ductal Occluder (ACDO) is a device that can be delivered via a catheter to occlude (correct) a patent ductus artriosus, a common birth defect in dogs. This defect can also be corrected by thoracic surgery in animals that are too small for the ACDO device.

Our Practice

Appointments

For your initial appointment please allow yourself at least an hour and a half for the consultation and diagnostics. Please arrive 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment to complete a client information sheet (PDF). Once the paperwork is complete, a doctor or a technician will obtain a history on your pet. A Cardiologist will examine your pet and review information from your referring veterinarian and formulate a plan for your pet. This recommended plan will be discussed and any questions you may have will be answered. Once the initial physical exam is complete, and recommendations are discussed, your pet will be taken to our procedure room and any diagnostics needed will be performed at that time. Upon completion of the recommended diagnostics you will again be placed in an exam room, with your pet, and the Cardiologist will go over her findings and additional recommendations. We will have written go-home instructions (including test results, diagnosis, medications, and further follow-up needed) for you. A copy of these go-home instructions is always faxed to your referring/regular veterinarian(s).The consultation fee is approximately $180. During the consultation the Cardiologist will provide you with a detailed estimate for any additional treatment/testing she is recommending. Please call our receptionists at 330-670-2376 to schedule an appointment.

OVC Practice Hours

Ohio Veterinary Cardiology’s practice hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm.  The Cardiologists do come in over the weekends to evaluate in-hospital patients and are available for emergency phone consultation to our Emergency Service around the clock.

Hospitalized Patients

When your pet is hospitalized through cardiology you will receive a call by noon with a general update (during regular business hours Monday through Friday). If you have not heard from us by noon please don’t hesitate to call.  One of the Cardiologists will call in the afternoon with a second update once we have gathered information and have performed necessary diagnostics. The afternoon update calls are usually after 4:00pm (Monday through Friday). If your pet is hospitalized outside of regular business days you will receive a call from a doctor before noon. A receptionist will call you with a financial update once daily while your pet is hospitalized Monday through Friday. Please ask the Cardiologist for a financial update if your pet is hospitalized over the weekend.Visitation hours for our hospitalized patients are between the hours of 10:00am and 7:00pm. Room visitation for approximately 30 minutes once a day is allowed. We ask that ICU visitation be limited to 15 minutes. If you visit after OVC hours, please do not expect to speak directly to the emergency veterinarians. If you have any concerns, please let the technical staff know and this will be relayed to the attending doctor or staff doctor.

Meet Our Doctors

Dr. Lori S. Hitchcock

Dr. Lori S. Hitchcock

DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology)

Dr. Lori Hitchcock is originally from Maryland and graduated from the University of Maryland summa cum laude in 1992 with a B.S. in veterinary science. She completed her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at Ohio State University, also graduating summa cum laude. She stayed at Ohio State for a small animal medicine internship then performed her residency in cardiology at the University of Missouri under the mentorship of Dr. John Bonagura. She was board certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialty of Cardiology in 1999. Dr. Hitchcock remained at the University of Missouri as a clinical instructor for one year before returning to Columbus, Ohio, as a staff cardiologist at MedVet Medical Center, where she practiced for four years. In 2004, Dr. Hitchcock opened Ohio Veterinary Cardiology at the Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Akron, Ohio.

Dr. Hitchcock is an active member the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). She has served on several ACVIM committees and currently is Secretary for the ACVIM Specialty of Cardiology. She is grateful to work in a career that she truly loves and is inspired by.

Dr. Hitchcock lives in Medina with her husband.  She has four children, two grown, and two nearly so, and two dogs, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Olivia, and a Labrador Retriever, Lexi.

Dr. Michelle Villalba

Dr. Michelle Villalba

Dr. Villalba grew up in Cincinnati Ohio and joined Ohio Veterinary Cardiology in August 2019. Following graduation from veterinary school she completed a small animal rotating internship at Ontario Veterinary College. She returned to Ohio State University to complete her residency in cardiology. During her residency program, she obtained her master’s degree studying diastolic function in cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. She enjoys treating all cardiac conditions and giving her patients an improved quality of life. In her free time she enjoys relaxing at home with her husband, dog and two cats.

Meet Our Staff

Hally E. Niehaus, RVT

Hally E. Niehaus, RVT

B.S.: The Ohio State University (2001)
R.V.T.: Columbus State Community College (2003)
V.T.S.: Academy of Veterinary Internal Medicine – Cardiology (2011)

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Hally has been living and working in Northeast Ohio since Ohio Veterinary Cardiology opened their doors at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in August 2004. She has been working in the veterinary field since 1995 and has been a registered veterinary technician, working work Dr. Hitchcock, since 2003. She obtained her specialty certification in cardiology the summer of 2011. She currently lives in Copley with her husband, their four children, and a menagerie of furred and scaled babies. When not working, Hally enjoys camping and spending time outdoors with her family, playing or watching volleyball, and crafting.

Nicole Donze, RVT

Nicole Donze, RVT

Cuyahoga Community College (2012)

Nicole grew up in Northeast Ohio and has been working with Ohio Veterinary Cardiology since 2015.  Nicole started her career as a Registered Veterinary Technician in 2012 at a small animal clinic, then joined Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in the Emergency Department in December of 2013.  When Nicole is not working, she enjoys spending time with her niece and family.

Lisa Anderson (Receptionist)

Lisa Anderson (Receptionist)

Lisa has been with Ohio Veterinary Cardiology since February 2008 as Dr. Hitchcock’s receptionist, and in 2018, she also started working as a veterinary assistant.  She is originally from Massillon Ohio and now resides in Copley with her husband Adam, and their two children, Isabella and Nathan. They have recently added a new member to their family, a guinea pig named Gus!  “I’m very happy to play a role on the Cardiology team here at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital.