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Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs occur when there is turbulent blood flow through a heart valve (basically a little blood leaks back the wrong way, against the normal flow of blood, and causes a “whooshing” sound that we associate as a murmur). Heart murmurs are a symptom and not the primary disease (much like a cough can be a symptom of a cold or pneumonia – it basically tells us to look at the lungs for more info).

Murmurs can be benign in origin, such as innocent or physiologic murmurs of young dogs, or problematic, such as those caused by chronic valvular disease, endocarditis, severe subaortic stenosis, etc. Some murmurs aren’t even caused by heart disease but rather by concurrent illness (murmurs due to anemia is one example).

This is why echocardiograms (commonly called echos), a procedure during which an ultrasound machine is used to look at the heart, are so critical. We can’t possibly determine how severe a murmur is and whether or not there is significant cardiac disease present without looking at the heart in greater detail. Echos can identify which valve is “leaking”, the thickness of the heart walls, how effectively the heart is contracting, how fast the blood is flowing through the heart, and so much more. There is no other test that can give us that degree of detailed information about the heart.

X-rays, in contrast, can only tell us if the overall size of the heart is big and if there is any fluid around the heart/in the lungs (it can show a lot about the lungs, so don’t discount an x-ray if it’s recommended, but it’s not going to be useful in diagnosing DCM or any other form of heart disease). EKGs, or electrocardiograms, can tell us whether or not a heart is beating at a normal rate and rhythm. It some cases it can also clue us in to abnormal heart size, but, again, it’s not going to give us the same kind detailed information that an echo is. A blood test known as a proBNP can tell us if the heart is undergoing excess stretch or strain, but it cannot tell us what form of heart disease is present and it is often normal in the early phases of heart disease.

If you’re concerned, talk to your vet. He or she can help to walk you through this process. And if he or she doesn’t mention an echo, don’t be afraid to bring it up. You can even ask for one (be prepared to spend anywhere from $250-750, depending on where you live). Also, please don’t be upset with your vet if an echo isn’t recommended right away. We’re still trying to process everything that is coming out in regards to diet-associated DCM and, despite what studies have come out so far, we still have A LOT to learn. Many vets are naturally cautious and like to wait for consensus statements to be released. That hasn’t happened yet, nor do we have a statement from the FDA yet (as was anticipated at the end of 2018). Good veterinary care is about teamwork between the pet owner and the veterinary team so don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned here with your regular vet (and invite him or her to join the group). We have to work together if we’re going to beat this.

January 21, 2019   No Comments

Indoor Fun


This will be me today! Brr! Stay warm everyone!

Here are some indoor activity suggestions:

Treats – One of the simplest remedies for your dog’s boredom is a strong rubber Kong or similar toy that can be stuffed with treats, yogurt or peanut butter and frozen.

Obedience Training – Do refresher command training.

Vocabulary Training – Take the time to teach your dog the names of his toys. Dogs can develop much larger vocabularies than most people credit them for and are capable of learning many words.

Hide and Seek

Scent Games – Hide strong-smelling treats in various places in a room and let your pup seek them out.

Tricks – Teach your dog some tricks – there are many sources on-line for training suggestions.

Massage – You know how good a massage feels, and the same goes for your pooch. Get him to lie down and relax, and give him a nice rub-down that will loosen unused muscles and take the edge off any pent-up energy.

Tug of War – As long as you set some ground rules, and your dog has no dental concerns, a game of tug with your canine buddy can be a great exercise for both of you. In addition to the mental stimulation, tug of war can be a pretty good physical workout as well, helping to compensate for at least some of the exercise you both may be lacking because of harsh winter weather.

Indoor Fetch – If you have a long hallway in your home play a game of fetch using a lightweight ball or toy. Even just a few minutes with this activity will help to alleviate the winter doldrums.

January 21, 2019   No Comments

January 21, 2019   No Comments

January 21, 2019   No Comments

January 21, 2019   No Comments

January 20, 2019   No Comments

January 20, 2019   No Comments

January 19, 2019   No Comments

January 19, 2019   No Comments

There Really Is A Rainbow Bridge

Extremely rare atmospheric phenomenon called rainbow bridge or circumhorizontal arc: when the sun is at least 58º above horizon and ice crystals in clouds form rainbows. 😍

January 18, 2019   No Comments