By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, February is American Heart Month. In 2012, The Animal Medical Center’s spokes-cat was Sidney, who developed fainting episodes which led to the diagnosis of a heart muscle abnormality, a condition common in cats.
This year, we have a spokes-dog who does not want to be outdone by last year’s spokes-cat. This dog has not one, but two types of heart problems at the same time!
An accidental tumor
Chad is a rescued, older male dachshund. After he found a forever home, he needed some dental work. Because his regular veterinarian heard a heart murmur, an echocardiogram was ordered as part of the pre-dental evaluation. Echocardiograms evaluate the heart noninvasively using sound waves. The test showed Chad’s heart murmur was due to leaky valves. Leaky valves are the most common cause of a heart murmur in a dog.
In Chad’s case, the test surprisingly found a tumor near the base of the heart and he came to The Animal Medical Center in March of 2012 for further evaluation.
Magnetic resonance imaging
Heart tumors are quite uncommon; one study showed heart tumors occur in less than 0.2% of all dogs. The two most common types are often hard to distinguish using an echocardiogram. To image the heart, we use a special type of MRI. The MRI showed the tumor was located in the heart wall and could not be removed surgically. We started chemotherapy and between treatments, when he was feeling well, his teeth were cleaned. Chemotherapy finished in November 2012 and an echocardiogram showed the tumor was smaller.
Heart problem number two
In January 2013, Chad’s leaky valves worsened causing heart failure, a buildup of fluid in his lungs. The AMC’s Emergency Service treated him with diuretics (water pills), oxygen and other medications to decrease the fluid in his lungs. The Cardiology Service prescribed medications to keep his broken heart working and the fluid from building up again in his lungs. After two days in the ICU, his heart was ticking well and he went home to his anxiously waiting family.
Is your dog coughing? It might be heart failure. Our friends at the Washington State College of Veterinary Medicine have a nice list of the causes of coughing in dogs.
Still worried your dog might have heart failure? Review the clinical signs and see your veterinarian if you think your dog has heart failure.