For Pet Owners
Dr. Janet Olson, DVM, DACVIM (cardiology), a board certified veterinary cardiology specialist, works hand-in-hand with your veterinary clinic to offer uncompromised cardiac care for your pet with heart disease.
Frequently Asked Questions – the FAQS
What are some common signs associated with heart disease in dogs and cats?
- -Generalized weakness
- -Exercise intolerance
- -Collapse episodes
- -Rapid respiratory rates or panting inappropriately
- -Fluid distended abdomen
What physical examination findings might help my veterinarian determine if my pet has heart disease?
- -a heart murmur (but not all dogs and cats with heart disease have a murmur)
- -an abnormal heart rhythm (fast, slow or irregular heart beats)
- -poor gum or tongue color
What additional tests can be performed to confirm and characterize my pet’s heart disease so appropriate therapeutic and management measures can be taken?
- -x-rays of the chest
- -an electrocardiogram (ECG)
- -a Holter monitor (24 hour ECG)
- -an echocardiogram (echo – ultrasound of the heart)
- -blood and urine tests
- -blood pressure analysis
Refer to the “Services” page for details on these tests.
Does my pet need all these tests?
Not necessarily. A diagnostic plan is individualized to every patient’s needs.
What role can Veterinary Cardiology Specialists play in my pets’ heart healthcare?
Veterinary Cardiology Specialists is available to play a role in all levels of your pets heart healthcare needs including:
- -OFA Heart Certification (murmur and echocardiogram evaluations)
- -Heart Screening Evaluations for dogs and cats predisposed to heart disease (i.e. Boxers, Dobermans, Whippets…)
- -Murmur evaluations in otherwise healthy dogs and cats
- -Pre-anesthetic work-ups
- -Evaluation of patients with clinical signs consistent with heart disease such as
- -Consultation on patients already diagnosed with primary heart disease
If my pet is diagnosed with heart disease, how will they feel and how long will they live?
Dr. Olson’s goal is first and foremost to improve and maintain the quality of life of her heart patients. It is important that they are feeling well and doing the things they enjoy (well, perhaps no more marathons). In regards to survival times, it is dependent upon their heart condition, stage of the disease and how rapidly it is progressing. The more we can characterize the condition, the more accurate therapy and prognosis can be determined.
Where do I need to go to have Dr. Olson assist in my pet’s heart healthcare?
Dr. Olson, as requested by your veterinarian, will come on-site to your veterinary clinic if located in the Twin Cities area. If you live outside the Twin Cities, your vet may refer you to one of the VCS Host Clinic Sites or can utilize Dr. Olson’s telemedicine service and submit radiographs and other tests for evaluation through her “Vet Portal”.
Ask your veterinarian if a visit with Dr. Janet Olson is right for you and your pet.
Vet Clin Small Anim 34 (2004) 1235–1244
Dr. Neil Harpster first described myocardial disease in the Boxer dog in the early 1980s. It was characterized as a degenerative myocardial disease with unique right ventricular histologic findings that include myocyte atrophy and fatty infiltration [1,2]. Affected dogs could be asymptomatic or syncopal with ventricular arrhythmias, and they sometimes developed congestive heart failure. The disease seemed to have a greater prevalence in certain families of dogs. In the early 1990s, Dr. Bruce Keene described a family of Boxers with myocardial dysfunction, tachyarrhythmias and congestive heart failure, and decreased myocardial carnitine levels . For the full article, click on the title: Boxer dog cardiomyopathy: an update by Kate Meurs.2004
1) Breed Predispositions: – most common in large and giant breed dogs: Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes, St. Bernards, Scottish Deerhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Afghan Hounds, Dalmations, Portuguese Water Dogs – also seen in smaller breeds: English and American Cocker Spaniels, Whippets, English Bulldogs and others. Genetic component suspected.
2) Definition: DCM is a condition in which the left ventricular chamber of the heart becomes dilated, stiff and non-compliant and loses it ability to contract (pump) effectively – somewhat like an overstretched rubber band. DCM is often a silent killer. Heart murmurs are typically soft and not present until late in the disease process. Abnormal heart rhythms are frequent and often life threatening – commonly resulting in sudden death in some breeds. The condition often progresses to left and right sided heart failure. Early medical intervention can help. Therefore, early screening … Read More »
Efficacy of Pimobendan in the Prevention of Congestive Heart Failure or Sudden Death in Doberman Pinschers with Preclinical Dilated Cardiomyopathy (The PROTECT Study)
J Vet Intern Med 2012;26:1337–1349
N.J. Summerfield, A. Boswood, M.R. O’Grady, S.G. Gordon, J. Dukes-McEwan, M.A. Oyama, S. Smith, M. Patteson, A.T. French, G.J. Culshaw, L. Braz-Ruivo, A. Estrada, M.L. O’Sullivan, J. Loureiro, R. Willis, and P. Watson
Background: The benefit of pimobendan in delaying the progression of preclinical dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Dobermans is not reported. Hypothesis: That chronic oral administration of pimobendan … Read More »
Stage C Chronic Degenerative Valve Disease is defined by a patient that is actively in left sided heart failure or has previously been in heart failure and is now controlled with medications. The process starts when the mitral valve on the left side of the heart becomes leaky from old age, degenerative changes. The green circles in all the images represent the left atrial chamber. The shortest arrow in the upper photo to the right, labeled “A”, represents the direction of normal blood flow from the left atrium into the left ventricular chamber. The arrow heading into the red structure (aorta), represents normal blood flow from the heart out to the body via the aorta. The last arrow pointed into the left atrium (green circle) represents blood leaking back across the valve when the heart contracts (regurgitation).
Read More »
Heart Disease in Cats: What’s up with that?
by Dr. Janet Olson, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology)
Cardiology for cats is tough. Most of the cardiology we, as veterinarians have learned, pertains primarily to dogs, or is out-dated in regards to the best practice for cats. Unlike dogs, we can not “breed profile” to help us determine if a cat is likely to have heart disease and if so, what type. So here are a few pointers to help you out in your practice.
Cats can have heart murmurs without any cardiac disease (physiologic in nature) – Yay!
Cats may have significant heart disease without the presence of a murmur or an arrhythmia – making it tough to diagnose – boo!
Any cat with pleural effusion has heart disease until proven otherwise
Cardiogenic pulmonary edema often takes on a ventral distribution in the chest vs the typical … Read More »
Your dog has been diagnosed with Stage B2 Chronic Degenerative Valve Disease (CDVD). The valves in the heart normally act as one way gates to keep all the blood moving in a forward direction. The arrow in the upper photo to the right, “A: Normal Heart”, represents the direction of normal blood from from the left atrium into the left ventricular chamber. The valve opens, blood flows in the left ventricle, the valve closes, the left ventricle contracts and all the blood continues to move through the heart in a forward direction. CDVD is a condition in which the mitral valve on the left side of the heart undergoes degenerative changes and no longer creates a tight seal when the ventricle contracts. These changes allow blood to “regurgitate”, or leak back into the left atrium. The changes in … Read More »
Stage B1 Chronic Degenerative Valve Disease (CDVD). CDVD is a condition in which the valves regulating blood flow through the small chambers of the heart (atria) and the larger pumping chambers of the heart (ventricles) undergo degenerative changes and no longer create a tight seal when the ventricles contract. These changes allow blood to “regurgitate”, or leak back into the atria (see image to the right). The blood flowing across the leak creates the murmur that we hear. Some dogs have a leak only across the mitral valve on the left side of the heart, and some dogs have leaks across multiple heart valves.
Stage B1 refers to a patient that has developed a leak across its valve, but the condition has not yet caused enlargement, or “remodeling” of the heart. Stage B1 is therefore considered an early and mild form … Read More »
Resting respiratory rates (RRR) are a valuable tool for determining if your pet is developing fluid in its lungs secondary to left sided congestive heart failure. In fact, elevated resting respiratory rates are the earliest, and most objective sign of left sided congestive heart failure. If the disease process is recognized at this early stage, appropriate therapy can be initiated before the onset of a stressful and often costly respiratory crisis. For more information on this technique, click Monitoring Resting Resp Rate. You can also download a free APP on your smart phone by searching “your dogs heart resting respiratory rate” in your APP store. For more information click HERE. Please note that the APP works the same for cats as it does for dogs.