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Cardiology

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Prevalence

Yes! Heart disease occurs in our pets. These days some of the same tests that are used in helping people with heart disease are available for pets.

Dog Heart disease

Sadly, heart disease becomes quite prevalent (especially amongst smaller breeds) as they get older.

Leaking heart valves are the most common form of heart disease. Treatment to restore quality of life is available.

Cat heart disease

Cat heart disease is often silent or without any symptoms whatsoever. Even advanced heart disease can be free of symptoms. Patients with advanced heart disease can often be fit, strong animals in seemingly the prime of their life.

This means early detection at routine annual health checks, is the only chance we have to diagnose and give treatment options.

Things to look out for

Symptoms of heart disease can be quite variable. A very common way owners find out, is that their vet hears a "murmur" during a routine examination.

Murmurs are caused by the turbulent flow of blood in the heart or nearby vessels.

A murmur does not mean your pet needs treatment immediately!

Your vet will advise you what is required to determine if this is a symptom you need to worry about.

Some common symptoms in dogs:
  • Coughing (particularly at night)
  • Loss of energy or increasing tiredness
  • Breathing hard
  • A big tummy
Some common symptoms in cats:
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of energy or increasing tiredness
  • Breathing hard

Sadly some of the worst cases of feline heart disease we have seen have been symptom free, middle aged, healthy cats.


What tests can you do at Boronia Veterinary Clinic?

X-rays

X-rays are probably the most important test. They will allow us to tell if the heart disease is causing problems in the lungs. Dogs with a murmur and a cough don't all have heart failure. Chest x-rays often help us decide if the cough is being caused by the heart or not.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound of the heart is called an "Echocardiograph". Previously only available at specialists, we are fortunate to have this test available at Boronia. When investigating having an echocardiograph performed for your pet, make sure you inquire if the examination includes "doppler" investigation. Doppler allows the ultrasonagrapher to measure blood flows in the heart and is an essential feature of an echocardiograph.

ECGs

Every time the heart beats, it does so using an electrical impulse that travels through the heart muscle. Electrocardiograms are measurments of that electrical behaviour. Sometimes the heart will develop irregularities called arrythmias. An ECG is required to tell what type it may be and which drugs may help.

Blood Pressure measurement

Blood pressure measurement is something that can be very important in animals with heart disease. Cats in particular, can suffer from high blood pressure. The impacts can be quite debilitating.


Can it be treated?

Treatment for almost all heart disease does not cure the disease. The goal of treatment for pets with heart disease is to restore their quality of life. We want them to be able to do the day to day things that have become their lifestyle. We do not agree that extending their life is a reasonable goal, unless that extra life is of a quality satisfactory to their owners.

The choice of which treatment options are used therefore depends on;

The diagnosis.
The severity of the disease.
The cost of medications.
How easy the patient is to medicate.
What the owner thinks.

So if we are doing our job right the treatments from patient to patient might vary quite a bit.


Which vet?

All our vets can advise you on heart disease. However Dr Ana Hayes or Dr Matt Costa maintain an interest in cardiology. If you suspect your pet has a heart complaint, you can ask to make an appointment specifically with either of them.

Neither Ana or Matt have formal qualifications in cardiology and are NOT members of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists.
Such veterinary specialists do exist.