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Heart Disease and Your Dog

Heart Disease and Your Dog

Heart Disease in Dogs and the Benefit of Early Diagnosis

Heart disease affects up to 1 in 10 dogs over their lifetime, and 80% of these will be due to mitral valve disease.

Dogs over the age of 6 are at a greater risk, however they may show no clinical signs until the disease is quite advanced at which point we are limited in what we can achieve with treatment, compared to catching it early.

Stages of heart disease

There are 4 stages of mitral valve disease.  The early stages (A and B) don’t display any visible signs of illness, however early signs can be detected in a routine clinical exam by listening to the heart and finding a murmur. Once the dog progresses to stages C & D there are visible indicators of disease as the heart fails to function properly (ranging from a cough to full blown collapse and congestive heart failure).

Previously there has been no evidence that early treatment before clinical signs are seen (stage B) has any benefit in the long term, however a new study has shown that there are significant benefits to early treatment which is great news!

The key findings of this large multinational study are:

  • Early treatment can help slow the progression to a clinical stage (visible signs of illness) by up to 15 months.
  • Can delay the development of clinical signs of congestive heart failure (CHF).
  • 10% more life expectancy without signs that affect your dog’s quality of life.

All breeds can be affected however certain breeds are at higher risk.  Mitral valve disease is more common in small breeds, particularly at risk breeds include Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dachshund, poodle, Schnauzer, Chihuahua, Fox terrier and Jack Russell Terrier. 

If your pet has a heart murmur a few tests can allow an accurate diagnosis and determine the best treatment for the stage of heart disease present.  This can range from herbal supplements to medications to help prolong the length and quality of life of your pet.

  

What is the mitral valve?

The heart has four chambers.

Each chamber of the heart has a one-way valve to keep blood from flowing backward. The valve between the left atrium and left ventricle is called the mitral valve.  Oxygenated blood flows from the lungs into the left atrium before flowing into the left ventricle. From the left ventricle, oxygen-rich blood is pumped throughout the body.

What causes mitral valve disease?

Because of the high pressure created when the left ventricle contracts and pumps blood out to the body, the mitral valve may begin to ’wear out’ and leak over time. This is known as mitral valve insufficiency (MVI) or mitral regurgitation and is often associated with a heart murmur. Other causes of mitral valve insufficiency include ruptured chordae tendinae, a condition in which the fibrous cords that hold the valve leaflets in position break, and heart valve infections known as endocarditis. Endocarditis may result from blood-borne infections or, more commonly, may be secondary to chronic oral infections (periodontal disease).

What are the signs of mitral valve disease? What are the consequences of it?

The earliest sign of a leaking mitral valve is normally a heart murmur. This is produced by the turbulence created when some of the blood goes backward through the leaking mitral valve into the left atrium. Dogs may develop a murmur from a leaking mitral valve as early as four to six years of age.

Initially, MVI is asymptomatic (produces no obvious clinical signs). As time progresses, the regurgitation becomes more severe and as more blood flows back into the atrium, the heart’s efficiency is reduced. Eventually, congestive heart failure develops. From the time a murmur develops, it may be a few months to several years until heart failure occurs.

A heart murmur does not mean that heart failure is imminent, but eventually congestive heart failure will occur. Dogs with a heart murmur do have an increased risk of sudden death.

When I took my dog for his annual health examination, my veterinarian told me he had a mitral murmur but said he was not going to treat it at this stage. Is this correct?

Veterinary cardiologists differ in when they recommend medical intervention for asymptomatic heart murmurs. Research has now shown newer drugs may have cardio-protective benefits in dogs similar to those demonstrated in people. Your veterinarian will carefully evaluate your pet’s condition and lifestyle and make the best treatment recommendations to preserve health and vitality.

How will I know if my dog has heart failure?

When the left side of the heart is not properly pumping blood, the blood slowly backs up in the lungs. This results in small amounts of fluid leaking out of the capillaries into the air passageways. This fluid collection produces the earliest signs of heart failure that include gagging as if trying to clear the throat, a chronic, hacking cough, and lack of stamina (your dog will tire more easily on walks). Dogs with heart failure are usually sick whereas dogs with heart murmurs may have few, if any, clinical signs until heart failure develops.

The degree of clinical signs is directly related to the amount of decreased blood flow that is occurring. This is why early diagnosis and treatment is essential in slowing the progression of heart failure.

What happens in congestive heart failure?

Congestive heart failure begins when the heart is unable to provide the tissues with adequate oxygen and nutrients. Without adequate oxygen, the body’s cells become distressed and trigger a series of responses. Various hormones are released in an attempt to increase blood oxygen levels and blood circulation. These hormones conserve fluid in an effort to increase blood volume and the output of blood and oxygen by the heart. For several months, these compensatory responses help the situation and the dog has few observable clinical signs.

Eventually the increased fluid retention becomes a detriment as more and more fluid leaks out of capillaries and into the lungs, abdomen, and other body tissues. Fluid in the lungs is called pulmonary oedema, fluid below the skin is called peripheral or limb oedema, and fluid in the abdomen is called ascites. When these are present, congestive heart failure is present. Left-sided congestive heart failure (LS-CHF) is generally associated with MVI and most commonly results in pulmonary edema and coughing. However, within a short time, heart failure will continue to progress and bilateral heart failure will follow.

What tests are needed to diagnosis heart valve disease?

There are several tests that provide valuable information while looking at different aspects of heart function.

Physical examination will determine if there are other symptoms or underlying conditions that may complicate or be affected by heart disease.

Auscultation or listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope is the first step in diagnosing heart disease. Pulse quality and heart rate and rhythm are also assessed during auscultation. Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) can often be detected with a stethoscope.

Chest radiographs (X-rays) are used to determine the size and shape of the heart and the presence of fluid in the lungs. Additionally, the lungs are examined for any abnormalities such as enlarged blood vessels (pulmonary hypertension).

Blood and urine tests are performed to give an indication of any other disorders in the body. Liver and kidney function are often decreased in dogs with heart disease.

An electrocardiogram (ECG) may be performed to measure the electrical activity of the heart and allow accurate determination of both heart rate and rhythm. Any abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias) can be detected and evaluated. The presence of abnormal heart rhythm helps your veterinarian determine the prognosis for your pet’s condition.

Ultrasound examination (echocardiogram) utilizes sound waves to evaluate the heart’s contractions and to measure the amount of blood pumped by the heart. This test is the most useful one to assess the heart’s function, and serial (repeated) examinations are recommended to chart the progress of disease and the response to treatment.

The combination of all of these tests gives the best evaluation of the dog and its heart function.

Is there treatment for a leaky mitral valve and heart failure?

A leaky heart valve can be replaced surgically in people. However, this is usually not feasible in dogs. However, there are several drugs and treatments that will improve heart function, your veterinarian will discuss which treatment will most benefit your pet in an individualised approach.

 

Parvovirus and You

Canine Parvovirus

What is Parvovirus?

Parvovirus or ‘Parvo” is a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs but especially young puppies. It can cause devastating gastrointestinal  effects and is potentially fatal.

How is Parvo spread?

Parvo is spread by dog to dog contact and contact with contaminated people (on clothes, hands, shoes) and environments (kennels, food and water bowls, bedding). Dogs that have had the disease can shed the virus for weeks afterwards, even once they are well. It also is extremely good at surviving for long periods of time in the environment as it is not easily killed by heat, cold and dry conditions. Dogs can also incubate the disease for up to 2 weeks before showing any signs of illhealth.

What are the signs of Parvo?

Loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, severe or bloody diarrhoea, dehydration and collapse. Puppies can die within a very short time from the start of clinical signs, so it is important to seek veterinary treatment early.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis is often suspected based on the patients’ history, vaccination status and clinical exam by a vet. There is also a faecal sampling test available that can be done at the practice which can be useful to confirm diagnosis, although tests are not always 100% accurate.

Treatment usually requires intensive treatment in an isolation facility. It involves intravenous fluids, pain relief, nutritional support, gut medication and antibiotics for secondary infection. Severe cases of parvovirus may be hospitalised for several days or longer. The earlier the treatment is started the greater the chance of a successful outcome. If you are concerned that your dog might be showing any of the signs of Parvo, please contact the clinic as soon as possible and explain. Due to the extremely contagious nature of the disease, please do not bring your dog into the clinic but make staff aware that you are here, then wait outside until our vet staff can attend to you.

How can Parvo be prevented?

It is vitally important that all puppies receive a course of vaccinations every 3-4 weeks with the final vaccination between 14-16 weeks of age. A booster vaccination should be given between 6-9 months of age. Adults that have never been vaccinated should receive 2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart. In addition to this, try and avoid contact with sick and unvaccinated dogs and faecal matter when out and about. If you are concerned that your dog is not fully vaccinated, please contact one of our clinics.

Your New Puppy

Your New Puppy

VACCINATIONS

Your puppy should have received its first vaccination together with a physical check up before re-homing; you should have received a vaccination certificate as proof of this.  If this has not been done please book for an appointment straight away.

Boosters are required every 3-4 weeks until your puppy is over 14 weeks of age.   Full immune protection cannot be relied upon until a week after the final booster.

The diseases we routinely vaccinate against include Canine Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis.

Further vaccinations for Leptospirosis and Kennel Cough are also available

Boosters are essential to maintain your dog’s immunity to these serious diseases.  These are required annually for Leptospirosis and Kennel Cough; and biannually for Parvovirus, distemper and Hepatitis

What to expect at your puppy’s first visit to the Vet Centre.

At the Vet Centre we want your puppy’s first visit (and every other visit) to us to be a positive experience

When you arrive at the Vet Centre, your puppy will be weighed.  They will then have a consultation with the vet, where they will have a full and thorough check-over.

Any queries or problems you may have regarding your puppy can be answered at this time.

Once your puppy is found to be healthy they will be vaccinated.  This is done as a small injection under the skin.  Your vet will advise you on the best vaccination protocol for your puppy, they will likely need a booster a few weeks later

The vet may ask what worm and flea treatment your puppy has had, and if needed these may also be administered.  Microchipping may also be done at this time.

SOCIALISATION

Good socialisation ensures that your puppy develops into a dog that is well behaved with yourself, your family, other humans and animals.

The most important period for socialising puppies is between 8 – 16 weeks of age.   Once your puppy is fully vaccinated it is important that you take your puppy out to meet other puppies, adult dogs and also people of all ages – especially children.  It is also important to expose your puppy to all kinds of environments, novel things and experiences, in a non-threatening way.   This will make the puppy confident and enable it to cope with normal everyday things, including noises, smells, water, other animals, strangers and even vets.

Puppy Playcentre is a fun way to help you socialise your puppy, helping it to develop those social skills it will need for the rest of its life.

PUPPY PLAYCENTRE

The goal of our classes is to help produce a well socialised, happy, confident and obedient dog.

It is important that what we teach them at this early stage results in a well-behaved and socially acceptable adult pet.  By starting now, we can prevent bad habits and teach our pets good manners in a fun and friendly environment.

If your puppy has had its first vaccination and is less than 16weeks old, we would like to have you join our next puppy class.

Please contact us for a registration form.

WORMING

Worms are a common cause of ill health in dogs and can cause symptoms ranging from poor condition, loss of appetite, pot belly, vomiting and diarrhoea, coughing, anaemia and even death.

Four worm types in New Zealand – round worms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms, affect dogs.

Puppies should be treated with an fortnightly from 4 weeks until 12 weeks, monthly until 6 months, then every 3 months for the rest of its life.

FLEA CONTROL

Fleas are a common problem, particularly in summer, but are an issue all year round.   As well as carrying tapeworms, fleas are very irritating for dogs, and can cause an allergic dermatitis.   Effective flea control requires the use of products that are non-toxic, convenient to use and effective at breaking the flea breeding cycle.

Ensure any flea product you use on your puppy is safe for use on young animals.  If you are unsure, please ask our staff.

NUTRITION & FEEDING

Proper development of the teeth, bones, internal organs etc relies upon supply of the correct balance of nutrients and hence depends greatly on the quality of the diet.

It is important that you choose the correct type of diet for the life stage and also the size of your dog.   Puppies require more protein, energy and minerals than an adult dog, and it is important to feed them a suitable puppy food during the first year.   Large breed puppies (greater than 25kg expected adult weight) can suffer from certain skeletal problems associated with fast growth rates and to minimise this there are special diet for large breeds.

Premium foods (such as Eukanuba and Hills) are made of high quality ingredients; providing your pet with the best nutrition.  Smaller amounts of these foods are needed for daily nutrition so it is important to follow the recommendations on the packaging as to how much of the product to feed.  This is a guideline only; you can vary this to your own dogs needs by assessing their body condition.

Ideal body condition is when you can easily feel the ribs with gentle pressure but cannot see the ribs.   If you are unsure, ask a member of our staff to help you.

As a general rule we recommend feeding three meals a day from the age of eight weeks.   This can be reduced to two meals at the age of twelve weeks or earlier if the puppy starts to leave food after a meal or shows disinterest in food.   From sixteen weeks of age the puppy can be fed just once daily though twice daily feeding for life is ok too.

Remember fresh water should be available at all times.

EXERCISE

You will need to choose a suitable collar.  Remember to check the adjustment regularly as puppies grow fast.   You should always be able to insert two fingers easily beneath the collar.

Other alternatives for lead training are available including; haltis, harnesses & check chains.   Talk to our staff about what is best for your puppy.

Once venturing outside the house you should keep your puppy under control at all times and you must be sure you can call your puppy back to you before letting off the lead in public places.   The use of a long retractable lead allows the puppy some freedom whilst it is still in training.

For the first 3 – 4 months of your puppy’s life it will get most of its exercise from playing around the house and walks are not strictly necessary.   However, once your puppy is fully vaccinated short daily walks are very useful to help socialise your puppy with other dogs, people, animals, traffic and other sights and sounds encountered outside.

It is important not to overdo a young dogs exercise to avoid their bones prematurely stop growing or becoming deformed.   When a dog reaches its full size, the bones stop growing and amount of exercise can safely be increased.   This is generally around 12 months

Adult dogs need a exercising for at least half an hour a day and this can include some time off lead.   The more athletic the breed the more exercise they will require.   Try to vary the exercise so that the dog does not become bored.

REGISTRATION

By law, all dogs over the age of three months must be registered with Animal Control and are required to wear a registration tag when in a public area.

Visit your local council.

Microchipping is a local council requirement for all new puppies being registered.

It can be done during a normal consultation or vaccination.

DESEXING

Unless you are serious about showing or breeding your dog, desexing is recommended, and has far more advantages than disadvantages.

Owners are often tempted to have at least one litter from a bitch, believing that having a litter will improve temperament.   There is no evidence to support this theory.

Breeding is an expensive and time-consuming process, which requires a lot of hard work.

The advantages of desexing are:

  • Reduces wandering in the male and female
  • Reduces diseases and cancer of the prostate
  • Mammary cancer, a relatively common disease can largely be prevented by desexing the bitch.   To gain this advantage it is important to have the bitch desexed before her first heat.   For this reason we recommend desexing bitches at 6 months of age, decreasing the chances of mammary cancer by a 70%.
  • The bitch will not have any unwanted puppies or phantom pregnancies
    • Prevents pyometra, a serious, toxic infection of the uterus, which usually requires an emergency operation to save the bitch’s life

The disadvantages of desexing are:

  • You will not be able to breed from your dog.
  • A small number of female dogs become incontinent later in life.  This is easily treated

It is a common fallacy that a desexed dog will become fat and lazy.   Remember that all service animals, Guide dogs, Hearing dogs and dogs for the Disabled are routinely desexed.   Feeding of a quality diet without excessive titbits should adequately control any problems of weight gain, just as it does in the entire animal.

Both dogs and bitches are usually desexed at about 6 months of age although the operation can be carried out at any time.   Any of our staff will be more than happy to discuss the details with you.

PET MEDICAL INSURANCE

We recommend that you think seriously about how you would cope financially in a situation where expensive surgery or long term treatment is necessary for your puppy.   The companies in New Zealand that offer pet medical insurance offer a variety of plans ranging from very basic to very comprehensive cover.   Be sure you know what you are getting for your premium. To find out more about insurance visit https://www.southerncrosspet.co.nz/

Grass Seeds!

Grass Seeds!

Dogs love going into the long grass when out on their walk and grass seeds can cause many problems to them.  Although these seeds may seem harmless, they can act like small spears and can lodge in many places on your pet and it’s coat.  These seeds commonly cause problems in many areas.

Feet

Grass seeds get caught between the toes, pierce the skin and then can travel under the skin.  This causes significant damage and irritation to tissues.Affected animals often need sedation and local anaesthetic to remove the seed.

Ears

Grass seeds can get caught down ear canals and cause irritation, pain and infection.

Eyes

Seeds can get caught in the eye and under the eyelids.  These seeds can then cause scratching on the cornea and conjunctivitis.

Dogs with long coats are more susceptible as the seeds get caught in their coat more easily.When you return from a walk with your dog it is useful to inspect between the toes, underneath the armpits and in the ears.

The sooner damage is noticed the quicker the recovery from treatment, so if your dog is licking at it’s feet excessively or you notice a wound between the toes, shaking it’s head, or rubbing at eyes; please contact the clinic.