7 signs your dog may have heart disease

Anatomy of a dog's heart

Anatomy of a dog’s heart

Did you know that up to 10% of all dogs may have some degree of heart disease, with the incidence rising to over 60% as they age?

All too often, we see dogs with quite advanced signs of heart disease where the owner had just assumed that it was just a part of the normal aging process.

We have created a list of the top 7 signs to watch for which may indicate that your dog has heart disease.

1. Coughing

A persistent cough, particularly in breeds such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, is the most common sign of heart disease that we see. As the heart disease progresses, we can see a build up of fluid on the lungs, which causes the cough. We can also see cases where the heart becomes larger as it tries to compensate for its poor function, which can then compress the trachea, causing a cough.

2. Changes in breathing

This may be difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or an increased breathing rate. A normal resting respiratory rate (when your dog is lying down and relaxed or asleep) is between 10-20 breaths per minute. A rate of over 30 breaths per minute, or a gradual increase over time may be a sign of heart disease.
There is a really useful app which can be downloaded to help you monitor and track your dog’s respiratory rate, which can be found at:
Android: //play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bivi.restingrespiratoryraten
iOS: //itunes.apple.com/us/app/id593676501?mt=8

3. Changes in behaviour

Your dog may have less energy, be withdrawn or just not their usual self. There are a wide range of problems which may cause this and it’s rarely “just a part of getting old”, so it is worth a check-up at the vet if you notice these signs.

4. Exercise intolerance

Whether it is losing their love of walks or getting tired easily, most dogs with heart disease can’t exercise like they used to.

5. Poor appetite and weight loss

This may be because the dog struggles to stop breathing long enough to eat a mouthful, or because of poor oxygen supply to the gut and tissues. Occasionally we may see a dog with a bloated looking belly. This is from a build up of fluid in the abdomen, so although they may look “fatter”, it’s not from gaining fat.

6. Weakness and fainting

We see this particularly for dogs with intermittent heart problems such as arrhythmias. Some dogs have a normal heart rate and rhythm, but it will suddenly become erratic and the heart becomes inefficient at pumping. We also see cases where fluid will build up around the heart, causing the dog to collapse.

7. Restlessness, especially at night

Many dogs with heart disease don’t sleep well. This is a combination of factors, including needing to breathe harder and faster than normal, poor oxygen supply to the tissues, and possible coughing – this becomes pronounced when they are lying down.
If you notice any of these signs in your dog, we recommend a check up with your vet. Although we often can’t cure the underlying disease, we can normally improve your dog’s quality of life and keep them feeling happy and healthy for longer.

New strain of Rabbit Calicivirus to be released soon.

We have been made aware that a new strain of calicivirus (viral haemorrhagic disease) will be released early next month.

This is a potentially deadly disease, so it is critically important that you act now to protect your rabbit.

This is the current advice for protecting your pet rabbit from the NSW Department of Primary Industries:

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus 1 K5 release

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) 1 K5 will be released nationally in the first week of March 2017. This virus is being released as a biocontrol measure to manage wild European rabbits. RHDV1 K5 is not a new virus; it is a Korean variant of the existing virus already widespread in Australia that was released in 1996. RHDV1s, including RHDV1 K5 are strongly species specific viruses, affecting only lagomorphs, and in particular the European rabbit. They are not known to cause disease in any other Australian animal species.

Vaccination of pet and breeding rabbits against RHDV1

The RHDV1 vaccine (Cylap®) has been shown to be effective against RHDV1 K5. A study completed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries compared the mortality of a small number of vaccinated and unvaccinated rabbits that were subsequently infected with a high dose of RHDV1 K5. All of the rabbits vaccinated with the currently available vaccine survived the infection with RHDV1 K5 and did not show any clinical signs; none of the unvaccinated rabbits survived.

It is recommended all healthy domestic rabbits are vaccinated against RHVD1.

The Australian Veterinary Association recommends that rabbits are vaccinated against RHDV1 as follows:

• Kittens: 4, 8, 12 weeks of age, then 6 monthly for life.

• Adults: 2 vaccinations 1 month apart, then 6 monthly for life.

This protocol is off-label. Cylap® is not registered for 6 monthly use.

Biosecurity measures

• Prevent direct and indirect contact between domestic and wild rabbits.
• Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits.
• Wash hands, with warm soapy water between handling rabbits.
• Good insect control is also important and will help reduce the risks of introduction of both RHDV and myxomatosis. Insect control could include insect proofing the hutch or keeping the rabbits indoors.
• Infected rabbits should be isolated and disposed of in a manner that will minimise environmental contamination.
• All cages and equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Disinfectants that can be used to decontaminate any equipment include 10 % bleach, 10 % sodium hydroxide,
or parvocide disinfectants. If using disinfectants material safety data sheets must be available
and consulted, prior to use. Autoclaving will also kill the virus.

Clinical signs of RHDV1 K5

In most adult rabbits the disease progresses rapidly from fever and lethargy to sudden death within 48-72 hours of infection. The incubation period for the RHDV is between one to three days. Most rabbits will show no signs of external symptoms of RHD but may have signs of haemorrhage on post mortem.

The disease causes acute liver damage with resultant blood clotting abnormalities. Death occurs due to obstruction of blood supply in vital organs and/or internal haemorrhages. RHD has a mortality rate of 70 to 90% in susceptible rabbits.

My cat has a sore on its ear that isn’t healing.

Cancer affecting a cat's ear.

Cancer affecting a cat’s ear.

Does your cat have a sore on its ear that just won’t heal?

Sores on a cat’s ear can have many causes. It may be from injury, infection, allergies, insects or cancer.

Most of these causes are easily treated or clear up themselves quite quickly, and with appropriate treatment the ear should be back to normal within two weeks.

When a sore persists on an ear for more than two weeks, this is a sign that the cat may have a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

White cats are particularly prone to this problem, with the ears and nose being the most commonly affected sights.

What should you do if your cat has a sore on its ear?

  • If it looks like a cut or scratch, make sure it is clean and keep an eye on it. If the wound is not fully healed within two weeks or if it looks infected, vet attention is needed.
  • If the ear is swollen or smells, take your cat to the vet as it may have an infection which requires antibiotics
  • If the canal or inside of the ear is red or sore, your cat may have ear mites or a condition called otitis externa, which will require assessment by a vet as it can progress to a middle ear infection
  • If the sore has been present for more than two weeks, please make an appointment to see your vet. This includes sores that look like they are almost healed then seem to get worse again – this is a red flag for cancer on the ear.

How do we treat these cancers?

Fortunately, early treatment gets very good results in most cases. Once the ear has been assessed and other causes (such as infection or allergies) ruled out, we will normally recommend surgery for the affected ear.

Squamous Cell Carcinomas are normally slow to spread but locally very invasive, which means that surgery can normally give a complete cure for the disease, but it needs to be done soon enough and “aggressively” enough. This means we will normally remove the entire pinna (the bit of the ear that sticks out). This surgery can normally be done as a day surgery with the cat going home that night. 10-14 days post-surgery the sutures are removed and the cat goes back to a normal, healthy life. This sort of surgery has very little effect on their hearing so apart from a more streamlined head, they continue to live a normal, happy life.

If you are concerned that your cat may have a cancer on its ear, please contact your vet for assessment and treatment. There’s every chance they can cure your cat and return them to full health.

Dr Braden Collins has undertaken additional study in Oncology (Cancer Treatment) and Surgery through the University of Sydney. Dr Collins works at the Eaton Vet Clinic Tuesday – Thursday. To book an appointment with Dr Collins, please phone 97250399

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Heart Murmurs

HEart disease

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Heart Murmurs

Finding a heart murmur when examining a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (CKCS) is very common. In fact, by five years of age over 50% of CKCS’s have a heart murmur, and by ten years of age almost all will have a murmur.

What Causes the Murmur?

The most common cause of this murmur is a disease called endocardiosis (it is also called mitral valve disease, mitral valve degenerative disease, chronic valvular disease, and myxomatous mitral valve degeneration). It is caused by a degeneration of the mitral valve (the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart), and can lead to a condition called congestive heart failure.

We don’t understand why the valve degenerates in such dogs, but it is very common in breeds such as CKCS’s, Poodles and Terriers.

Your Vet will check your dog’s heart at their annual health check. We find in most cases, the Vet will initially find a low grade heart murmur. We grade them from Grade 1-6, with grade 1 being a very subtle murmur and grade 6 being so pronounced you can actually feel it just by putting your hands on the dog’s chest.

As a general rule, the loudness of the murmur will give a good idea of how bad the valve degeneration is, with a louder murmur normally indicating a more damaged valve.

The function of the valves in the heart is to make sure the blood is pumped in the right direction. When the valves become leaky, some of the blood is pumped in the wrong direction. This leads to increased pressure in the blood vessels leading to the heart, and changes to the heart muscle itself as it tries to compensate for the leaky valve. This process leads to congestive heart failure.

The first signs many owners will notice is the dog having a cough. This is a sign that there is an increase in pressure in the small blood vessels in the lungs and congestive heart failure has set in.

What are the Treatment Options?

Until very recently, the advice was to start treatment once the dog was showing signs of congestive heart failure, such as coughing or struggling to exercise. We believed that early treatment didn’t improve the outlook for the dog.

Late last year, the results of a massive trial were published, which has changed this advice. It has shown that starting treatment earlier can delay the onset of clinical signs of heart failure by 15 months. The results of the study can be found here: //www.results.epictrial.com/

So what does this mean for your pet? If your pet has been found to have a heart murmur but doesn’t have signs of heart failure, it will be worth having a talk to your vet as to whether heart medication might be appropriate. They may recommend an ultrasound of the heart, chest xrays, starting medication, or just monitoring for now.

For dogs with signs of heart failure, there are a variety of medications which can help control signs of the condition. Your Vet will be able to prescribe the appropriate medication for your pet, which may involve a combination of several different drugs.

With appropriate and early treatment, we can maximise your pet’s life span and keep them happy and healthy for longer.