Anna-Lena PfaffleAnna-Lena Pfaffle studied veterinary medicine at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich from 2012-2018. Meanwhile, her passion for cardiology was already ignited. Due to the one and a half year internship with Dr. Elisabeth Lohss-Baumgartner continues to be fired up. In April 2020, she earned the General Practitioner Certificate in Cardiology. Will be in private practice as of August 2020. Anna-Lena Pfaffle is a member ESVC (European Society of Veterinary Cardiology) in the German Society of Veterinary Medicine, the DVG working group on cardiology and the ESDA (European Society of Dirafilariosis and Angiostrongylosis).
Small animal cardiology practice& Ultrasound diagnostics
Help! My dog has a heart condition!
For many dog owners, a diagnosis of heart disease initially comes as a shock. Many are unclear about what to expect now. What you should pay attention to or avoid and what you can do additionally at home to make life easier for your four-legged friend.
Heart disease is not equal to heart disease
There are many acquired, d.h. Diseases and congenital defects that develop during life. The most common acquired heart disease in dogs is what is known as "Chronic degenerative AV valve disease'', often also "Mitral valve endocardiosis" called. This condition predominantly affects smaller dogs, with some breeds, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, being more commonly affected than others. As a result of this disease, one or both of the heart valves, which separate the atria from the main chambers, leak through various mechanisms. The blood usually flows in the heart like in a one-way street. If this is no longer ensured by leaky valves, blood flows back in the wrong direction with every heartbeat. This then accumulates first in the left atrium and later also in the left ventricle, which leads to volume overload of the heart and ultimately usually to the discharge of this fluid into the lungs. At the latest then it comes to perceptible symptoms. The dogs cough, pant more, are no longer as efficient, stop eating and become increasingly apathetic. Some dogs even show fainting spells. In most cases, however, an alert veterinarian will notice a heart murmur earlier during a routine exam.
At the veterinary cardiologist's office, the first moment of shock after diagnosis is usually followed by the second, when they say: "Your dog needs heart medication". Because heart medication – once prescribed, will usually be necessary for the dog's life and often only changed in dosage. In the further course of the disease it can be that your quadruped must take several medicines several times a day. The recommended time of administration varies from drug to drug: usually it is sufficient to give it with food or at individually determined times – other drugs must be administered on an empty stomach a certain time before eating. Therefore, ask your veterinarian if this is the case with the prescribed tablets and make yourself a written plan. It is also helpful to use tablet pushers.
How do I get the tablets into my dog? Well! Here, unless you own a Labrador, Beagle or similar easy-feeding breed, you have to get inventive! It is not advisable to simply serve the tablets in the bowl with the food. You should first offer the dog a small portion of food with the medication and give the rest after consumption. Here's how to make sure your dog is actually taking the pills. Sometimes it can be helpful to store loose tablets in a container filled with dry food so that they smell like it. Most of the time, however, it is advisable to work with "Trojans" to work, d.h. with a very special treat in which they hide the tablet(s). For example, you can put the medication in a piece of sausage or cheese, or. wrap them with liverwurst or butter. Also, your veterinarian can sell you special moldable treats in which tablets can be easily pressed in.
As the administration of these tablets usually becomes a lifelong routine, you should avoid forcing your dog to take the tablets. Administration dissolved in a syringe or via tablet introducer is also often considered unpleasant by dogs. Therefore, the most important tip I give dog owners once the first tablet for the heart is due: Every tablet is a "HURRA tablet! In other words, make a fuss about giving the medication at first. The positive swirl and the associated treat should be a positive ritual for your pet – this is the only way to ensure in the long term that your dog takes the tablets well and can thus be optimally treated. Because these tablets ensure the survival of your dog and maintain his quality of life. If your dog spits the tablet out again, you will have to try to smuggle it in again. The situation is different if your animal vomits for a long time after the tablets have been given, in which case it is better not to give the tablets again, as this will result in double dosing.
Talk to your cardiologist/veterinarian about your concerns and feel free to ask us questions, because we care about your pet's health."
overweight is neither beneficial for the joints nor for the cardiovascular system.
In addition to medication, it may be helpful to reconsider the dog's diet. Excess weight is not beneficial for your pet's joints or cardiovascular system, so make sure he is at an appropriate weight. However, heart disease is a chronically debilitating condition and is often accompanied by weight loss and muscle wasting. Consequently, at a certain point, it is advisable to choose a food with a high calorie and protein content, in order to cover the needs even if smaller amounts of food are consumed when there is a lack of appetite. Also a reduced phosphorus content is recommended. The addition of salmon oil to the feed also has a positive effect on the dog's heart due to the omega 3 fatty acids it contains.
Quality of life comes first!
On the subject of exercise and play, there is only one rule: Ahe dog is welcome to do whatever he offers of his own accord – because quality of life is more important than anything else! It is important that you avoid heat. Dogs with heart disease are more sensitive to heat. The most important tip is to regularly record the dog's resting respiratory rate. To do this, count how many times a minute your pet's chest moves up and down while lying on its side, preferably asleep or snoozing. Free breathing rate meter apps can also help here. A dog's normal breathing rate should be less than 30 breaths per minute. If your companion's respiratory rate is above this several times, it could be a sign of pulmonary edema, and then you should consult a veterinarian. Cough may develop due to atrial enlargement and should also be clarified by a veterinarian. Do not be afraid to also consult a veterinary emergency service in case of doubt.
It remains to be mentioned that animals with a suspected heart problem should be presented to a specialized veterinarian and examined by means of a heart ultrasound. This is the only way to make an accurate diagnosis. Targeted therapy possible. As mentioned at the beginning, not all heart disease is the same.