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Heart problems

Species: dog | Category: medical-surgical | Submitted: 15 March 2010 10:01PM | viewed 33896 times
Q Paula asks:

Hi, I recently took my dog to the vets for her yearly checkup. I have a 7 year old doberman who is very active and who has shown absolutely no symptoms of there being anything wrong with her whatsoever. However, upon examining her, the vet discovered that she had a heart murmur and irregular heart beat. He attached her to a machine which printed off this graph showing the beats, normal ones going up and the irregular one going down. Obviously this did not mean much to me. I don't wish to question the professionalism of my vet or sound that I don't care about my pet but he does have a bit of a reputation for finding out if you are insured and then stinging you for things you don't necessarily need. I guess the question I'm asking is, if my dog has a heart problem wouldn't I at least suspect something wrong, i.e. shortness of breath, coughing. He's put her on Vetmedin which he now says she will need for the rest of her life.

Q Our vet says: Think of the heart as a pump. If a pump has, let's say, a slightly leaky valve or pumps just slightly in the wrong way, you might not notice the problem immediately. However as the water in the pump goes slightly in the wrong direction, further damage is done until more and more water flows abnormally and eventually the pump fails..... and you are swimming in lots of water which should not be there!

The heart is really a pump which the body uses to distribute blood around the body. Unlike a mechanical pump, it has some reserve capacity so that when things start to go wrong, mechanisms are in place to compensate for the problem and get the blood flowing to where it needs to go. This means that by the time you notice a problem, things have gone past the point of compensation and the pump is really in trouble.

The signs you mention of coughing and shortness of breath are signs of fluid accumulation in the lungs, so the fluid is not moving where it should go at all, and the heart is having to work REALLY hard by this stage.

As veterinary medicine progresses we are able to detect problems BEFORE the clinical signs become apparent. If treated early we know we can prolong the life-span and also the quality of life too! This is great but can lead to problems when pets appear perfectly well as yours does.

I understand that you do not wish to treat your pet unnecessarily, but if treated early the outcome for pets with heart disease is much improved. If I were you I would be reassured due to the fact that an ECG ( which I assume the graph was) has been taken.

It can be very difficult for vets sometimes! Preventative treatment and early care of disease (before signs are necessarily apparent to owners) is the best practice of medicine and represents the very best of care for animals. In the end it is most likely to work out cheaper than letting animals develop serious signs and having to pay for expensive hospital treatment and life saving procedures later on. However this type of medicine can be seen as unnecessary by many clients since their pet is "well". I would say ignore what other people say about your vet's "reputation" and be thankful that he is sensible enough to offer the very best of care available. Remember that it is a vet's job to offer the best of care available, but you always have a choice in what is done for your pet.

I hope all goes well for your dog, I know you must care very much for your pet and it sounds as if you have a very good vet!

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