Congenital Heart Disease in the Dog: Diagnosis and Treatment

During your puppy’s first examination by your veterinarian it is routine to carefully listen forCongenital Heart Disease in the Dog: Diagnosis and Treatment abnormal heart sounds that may suggest the presents of a congenital heart defect. The normal sound is a series of “lup Dub” sound. A murmur is an abnormal sound heard through a stethoscope which indicates that blood is flowing at an increased rate of speed and is turbulent rather than flowing smoothly. A “Lup schhhhh Dub”is typically heard in congenital valvular disease. Patent Ductus arteriosis will have a more continuous or machinery murmur with a Lup schhhhh Dup schhhhhh Dup repeated over and over.

Chest X Rays may be helpful to determine if the heart or great vessels are enlarged or if fluid has accumulated in the lungs from heart failure. Electrocardiograms are also performed but have limited value in distinguishing the types of congenital heart defect that may be affecting your puppy.

The definitive diagnostic test is now an ultrasound of the heart called an echocardiogram. http: Click here to view a normal echocardiogram. Click here to view an echocardiogram of a Ventricular Septal Defect, or of a Patent Ductus Arteriosis.

Treatment of Congenital Heart Disease in the Dog

Until recently the only effective treatment for congenital heart diseases in dogs and children has been surgery. Some surgeries can be performed without the aid of a heart lung bypass machine. For the curious reader that does not faint at the site of blood, you may click here to see an actual surgical closure of a Patient Ductus Arteriosis.

As one can imagine open heart surgery requiring heart lung bypass technology has largely been out of the real of possibility for pets though some Veterinary schools now offer this approach on a very limited basis. Fortunately now some heart defects can now be corrected with the use of catheters placed in an artery. Transcatheter occlusion, as it is called, of interventricular septal defects, interatrial septal defects, and most commonly for patent ductus arteriosis. Click here to view a video of occlusion of a PDA through a cardiac catheter.  Stenotic valve defects, most notably Pulmonic Stenosis can be helped with what is called Balloon Valvuloplasty. A catheter is placed into the heart where a balloon is used to dilate the narrow valve thus avoiding open heart surgery.

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Dr Roger Johnson

Roger K. Johnson, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include cardiology as well as using advanced diagnostics to help his patients. His particular favorites include echocardiography, abdominal ultrasonography, and endoscopy.

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