Throughout February and March, we are running our heart focus months and we’d like to share two success stories with you.
Rhino visited us recently as his owner was worried about his breathing and general lethargy. Rhino is a vivacious Chihuahua Cross who we’re used to seeing full of life and feistiness, so it was immediately concerning for Keith to find him with no energy and having to concentrate on every breath. Keith identified a loud heart murmur when listening to Rhino’s chest so booked him in for an ultrasound scan of his heart, a procedure also known as echocardiography. Echocardiography is performed with the patient lying on their side on a comfortable padded table in a darkened room using gentle and reassuring restraint by our lovely nursing team. The heart scan is ideally done conscious so in Rhino’s case, we didn’t need to worry about posing any anaesthetic risk to him.
Rhino’s ultrasound revealed the source of his murmur to be a leaky valve between two of his heart chambers. The valve involved is known as the ‘mitral valve’ and it should allow forward flow of blood through the heart. It isn’t uncommon in small dogs like Rhino for this valve to become insufficient and allow some backwards leakage of blood through the heart. This can sometimes be so mild that it never causes the heart a problem but, in some dogs, like Rhino, the heart eventually starts to struggle with the strain of this backwards flow and this can lead to heart failure. All the signs detected on Rhino’s heart scan were indicative that his heart wasn’t coping and that it needed help.
The team started Rhino on medication to help his heart pump more efficiently and we’re very pleased to report that, after only 2 weeks, we can see a huge improvement! His breathing is now easier, he’s enjoying his walks and his demeanour is much improved! Rhino will need close monitoring going forward and he will need long term medication but we’re hopeful he’ll enjoy a longer more comfortable life because of it.
Our second success story involves a beautiful cat named Kiyoshi who was in desperate need of some dental treatment. Kiyoshi has had quite a prominent heart murmur for some time which has understandably left his family anxious about ever putting him through an anaesthetic. Unfortunately, Kiyoshi’s mouth had become very painful recently, so we needed to act and do something. Thankfully we were able to do an echocardiogram which showed his heart was pumping perfectly well and not showing any signs of failure. After this reassuring discovery, we all felt more comfortable anaesthetising Kiyoshi for his dental treatment. Kiyoshi had a very smooth anaesthetic and recovery but unfortunately, he did require some extensive dental work and the extraction of nine teeth! However, after just 1-week Kiyoshi felt much more comfortable and his owners report he had regained his appetite and is back to his happy self. Interestingly cats often develop heart murmurs that are completely innocent and not an indication of a heart problem. At the clinic, we’re usually much more worried if we feel the heart is beating too fast (known as tachycardia), has an irregular pattern (known as an arrhythmia) or has an extra beat (known as a gallop sound).
So what signs should you look out for if you have a patient with heart issues?
- Exercise intolerance and lethargy
- Increased effort to breath
- Reduced appetite
- Sometimes a cough can also develop
If you ever visit us and we introduce some concerns regarding your pet’s heart health there are plenty of options for further investigation. We are incredibly lucky to work closely with the amazing specialist team at Dick White Referrals and we also often have renowned cardiologist Paul Smith from East Anglia Cardiology visit us. If specialist care isn’t an option then don’t worry, Charlotte takes a great interest in imaging and cardiology so is always happy to help where she can!
If you would like to meet with one of our team to see how we can help your pet, the appointments are free through the month of March and can be booked online here or by calling the clinic on 01206851338.