Cardiology refers to the study of the heart, including the diagnosis of congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease, heart failure, valvular heart disease, and electrophysiology, or electrical properties of the heart. Cardiac conditions often present with specific symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and exercise intolerance and in severe cases, syncope or fainting. If one of your beloved furry family members is experiencing any of these symptoms, please call our practice as soon as possible.
A heart murmur is an extra or unusual heart sound heard during a heartbeat when the listened to with a stethoscope. If an irregular sound or heart rate (arrhythmia) is detected upon examination, our veterinary staff may recommend further diagnostic testing and procedures be done to successfully and thoroughly diagnosis a pet with suspected heart disease.
Radiographs can provide essential information about the chest cavity anatomy and irregularities. Echocardiography is another non-invasive technique utilized to assess valves, and blood flow through the heart by using sound waves to deliver images on a more three-dimensional scale, and in real time. Along with radiographs and an echo, an electrocardiograph or ECG can pull the imaging together with an assessment of heart rate, rhythm, and any potential arrhythmia of the patient.
Finally, blood tests are highly recommended to determine important parameters such as kidney and liver functions, thyroid status and oxygen saturation levels of the blood. A complete picture of your pet’s overall health will help our veterinary staff determine the safest and most effective treatment options.
Treatments for cardiac diseases most commonly include drug and dietary therapy. Frequently used cardiac drugs include ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and diuretics. ACE inhibitors dilate blood vessels and make it easier for the heart to pump blood. We often use beta blockers to treat heart disease because they decrease the production of harmful substances the body creates in response to heart disease and block the effects of adrenaline, therefore improving the heart’s ability to perform. In more severe heart disease we often incorporate diuretics or water pills to promote fluid loss, and relieve edema, a common symptom of heart failure.
Along with proper medication, our practice often recommends a diet with moderately reduced sodium, and rich in antioxidants, fatty acids, taurine, carnitine and arginine. This can help slow the progression of heart disease. Several prescription diets exist on the market to meet the dietary needs of pets suffering from heart disease. Proper diet and medication, along with the close supervision of our practice may dramatically increase the quality of life and longevity of your four-legged family member.
As for Lady, after a complete cardiology workup, we determined she had a cardiac disease called mitral valve disease. With the assistance of medication and dietary changes, as well as regular check-ups every six months, she is back to enjoying life as usual.