uring the many years that I owned a pet food and supply store, I was fascinated at how often owners informed me that their dogs had been diagnosed with a heart murmur. However, the information became more than just intriguing when Bobo, our store mascot at the time, received the same diagnosis. He was a Pomeranian about 13 years old and his was an age-related condi- tion. Heart murmurs we learned can be congenital or may develop due to disease such as high blood pressure or the result of the aging process. Mur- murs may be benign or they may be fairly serious and progressive. Benign murmurs are often seen in puppies, can be intermittent and generally disappear before the puppy reaches adulthood. In cats, benign murmurs can occur at any age and are sometimes associated with anemia or stress.
Whooshing signals problems A murmur is usually discovered by the vet using a stethoscope. In a healthy heart, there are two distinct beats of uniform loudness. A heart murmur is a whooshing sound that is heard between the two beats. There are six grades of heart murmur based on the loudness of this whooshing sound. Grade one is a very soft, mur- mur that the vet can only detect by listening closely while grade six is so loud that it can even be heard when the
stethoscope is pulled slightly
away from the animal’s chest. In a healthy heart with the valves
Some straight talk on pets’ heart murmurs D
other than a healthy lifestyle. In most cases the vet will be able to determine the likely cause of the murmur just by listening to the repetition of the heart beat. The vet may, however, suggest further tests to confirm either the cause of the murmur or its severity. Chest x-rays, blood tests and electro- cardiograms are common diagnostic procedures.
Unfortunately, the heart murmur
itself cannot be treated. The underly- ing cause might be treatable depend- ing on the severity of the problem, the age and health of the pet and in some cases the cost of treatment. The first sign for the owner that a pet has a heart problem is usually a chronic, hacking cough occasionally accompanied by frequent throat clear- ing. If you notice this constant cough it is wise to seek professional advice early. Secondary signs include poor exercise tolerance, weakness, lack of stamina and laboured breathing. Healthy lifestyle pays off
opening and closing correctly, the blood passes through in a smooth, even flow. However, a heart not working efficiently will disrupt the smooth flow of blood causing a tur- bulence which results in the whoosh-
Why should I get my pet dog and cat fixed?
results in millions of healthy dogs and cats being euthanized in Canada each year simply because there aren’t enough homes to go around. There are also medical and behavioral ben- efits to spaying (female pets) and neu- tering (male pets) your animals. Here are some of the medical ben-
efits: • Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life. Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors, which are malignant or cancerous in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 per- cent of cats. Spaying your pet before her first heat offers the best protec- tion from these diseases. • Neutering your male companion
prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems.
And behavioral benefits: • Your spayed female pet won't go into heat. While cycles can vary, fe- male felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to adver- tise for mates, they'll yowl and urinate more frequently—sometimes all over the house! • Your male dog will be less likely
to roam away from home. An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate, including finding cre- ative ways escape from the house. Once he's free to roam, he risks injury in traffic and fights with other male animals. • Your neutered male may be better behaved. Unneutered dogs and cats are more likely to mark their territory
y spaying or neutering your pet,
you’ll help control the pet homelessness crisis, which
by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. Your dog might be less likely to mount other dogs, peo- ple and inanimate objects after he’s neutered. Some aggression problems may be avoided by early neutering. Spaying/neutering your pets is also highly cost-effective. The cost of your pet's spay/neuter surgery is far less than the cost of having and caring for a litter.
Debunking Spay/Neuter Myths and Misconceptions
• Spaying or neutering will not cause your pet to become overweight. Lack of exercise and overfeeding will cause your pet to pack on the extra pounds—not
neutering. Your pet
will remain fit and trim as long as you continue to provide exercise and monitor her food intake. • Neutering is not as a quick fix
for all behavior problems. Although neutering your pet often reduces un- desirable behaviors caused by a higher level of testosterone, there’s no guar- antee that your dog’s behavior will change after he’s neutered. Although the surgery will reduce the amount of testosterone in your dog’s system, it won’t eliminate the hormone com- pletely. Neutering will also not reduce behaviors that your pet has earned or that have become habitual. The ef- fects of neutering are largely depen- dent on your dog’s individual person- ality, physiology and history. It is city bylaw to get your pet dog and cat fixed before six months of age in Winnipeg. If you choose to keep your pet intact, you are required to a much higher pet license as penalty. If you would like more information,
please call (204)-586-3334 or visit Ani- mal Hospital of Manitoba at 995 Main Street, Winnipeg R2W 3P8.
ing sound or murmur. While grad- ing the sound from one through six is one way of diagnosing the severity of the murmur, sometimes it is nec- essary to find out which valves are faulty or which part of the heart may be damaged. Hearing a murmur is not neces- sarily a reason to panic. Many dogs and cats with murmurs live normal lives and require no special treatment
To proactively protect your dog’s or cat’s heart health, you should keep your pet at a good body weight through regular exercise, feed a high quality diet and take care of your pet’s dental health. Holistic vets also recommend supplements such as CoQ10, Omega-3 essential fatty ac- ids, particularly from krill oil, as well as Chinese herbs, a preference of vets specializing in herbal medicine. While there are numerous breeds of dogs that are predisposed to heart murmurs, the condition is becoming more common in all dogs. We can’t be sure of the reason but it may be the usual suspects – obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet or our pets’ longer lifespans.
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