Heart (cardiovascular) disease is any condition of the heart or blood vessels. Heart diseases can be congenital (present from birth) or acquired (occur later in life) and many diseases are heritable, meaning that they are passed on from generation to generation. Cardiology is the branch of medicine that focuses on the management and treatment of diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
How to determine if your pet has heart disease?
Symptoms of heart disease in animals can take many forms including activity or exercise intolerance, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, restlessness during sleep, coughing, and/or fainting. Often, heart diseases may be present in animals without the presence of clinical signs and animals will not outwardly demonstrate symptoms until disease is advanced. Heart disease is often detected by primary-care veterinarians through regular physical examination prior to the onset of clinical signs. Common findings to suggest the presence of heart disease include abnormal heart sounds (heart murmurs), abnormally fast, slow, or irregular heart rhythms, abnormal arterial or venous pulses, or abnormal color of the mucous membranes.
What can be done if your pet has heart disease?
The primary goal of the cardiology service is to determine the underlying type of cardiac disease present through the use of diagnostics and to discuss the various treatment options that are available. At VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists we offer a variety of diagnostics including:
- Electrocardiography (ECG): Study of the electrical rhythm of the heart
- Echocardiography: Ultrasound study of the heart
- Thoracic Radiography: X-ray study of the heart and lungs
- 24-hour ambulatory ECG (Holter) monitoring: Extended monitoring of heart rate and rhythm for 24-48 hours
Options for management of diagnosed disease may range from monitoring to preventative medications to medications to alleviate symptoms. We are also excited to be the first veterinary facility in Portland to offer interventional cardiology. Interventional cardiology involves the passage of catheters into the heart via peripheral vessels in order to diagnose and correct cardiac disorders. Commonly, these procedures are used in the correction or palliation of congenital heart disease and also in significant arrhythmias leading to clinical signs. This exciting option for treatment of heart disease is performed using fluoroscopy, or moving radiographs, which allow us to visualize the catheters in the heart as they are manipulated. The interventional procedures available at VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists include:
- Balloon dilation of congenital valve stenosis: A procedure used to increase the width of narrowing or abnormally formed valves
- Catheter-Based closure of patent ductus arteriosus: A procedure to correct a common congenital heart defect in which a connection remains between the pulmonary artery and aorta
- Pacemaker implantation: A procedure required to correct arrythmias leading to slow heart rates
When is the cardiology service available?
The cardiology service at VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists is available to provide cardiology care to dogs, cats and other animals with heart, vascular, and lung disease Monday through Thursday by appointment. We are also available to the Emergency and Critical Care Service Friday through Sunday for consultation.