Category: Dogs

Heart Disease

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The purpose of the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) is to provide the cells of the body with oxygen, nutrition, and essential fluids. It also helps these same cells rid themselves of waste products, and distributes hormones and enzymes to allow for normal physiologic processes. It is even a big part of temperature regulation.All of this is no small feat when you consider the fact that the cardiovascular system must supply these needs to a body that contains billions of individual cells.

The cardiovascular system is very complicated and does not lend itself to a simple explanation and categorization of its functions. Therefore, the sections on physiology and pathophysiology are a little complex, but if you get through them it will help in your understanding when we talk about specific diseases along with their diagnosis and treatment. You may need to go through them more than once. You might notice that we repeat important concepts, and from different angles.

Hopefully this will help put it all together.You can bypass all the background information and go directly to specific diseases like HeartwormCardiomyopathy, and Valve disease, the most common heart diseases we encounter. We also have a summary page on Heart Disease if you find this page contains more detail than you need. It will give you background information but in a condensed format.

This page has actual pictures of the heart and the organs of the chest. Most people will not be bothered by their graphic nature, and will actually find them fascinating. The mechanisms of heart failure in the dog and cat are very similar to humanoids. The explanation of congestive heart failure applies directly to people in many cases. The main drugs used to treat heart failure are almost identical in people and animals.

Heart disease and its diagnosis is complicated stuff. We commonly call in our cardiologist Dr. Fred Brewer to assist in many cases. He specializes only in cardiology, and has extensive knowledge that he is willing to share.

Here is Dr. Brewer explaining heart sounds to one of our externs

Cardiology-Teaching

We work on a wide variety of species that get heart disease in addition to dogs and cats. This guinea pig has heart failure.

Cardiology-GuineaPig

This is the heart of a 50 pound dog. It is about the size of your fist. You can easily see some of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle in the same manner that the heart supplies blood to the rest of the body.

The pericardium has been removed for better visualization

This is a ferret heart, obviously much smaller. You can see the pericardium, the layer over the heart as it is pulled away.

Rocky Walker 21218 Ferret Gastric tumor Picture of normal pericardiumThe heart starts beating before birth, and continues until death. Think of how many beats that is in the lifetime of any living organism. Lets have fun with math and play with some basic numbers:

Average heart rate in a cat- 150 beats per minute

This is 9,000 beats in one hour

This is 216,000 beats in one day

This is 78,840,000 beats in one year

This is 788,400,000 beats in 10 years.

Many cats have a heart rate greater than 150 beats per minute, and live much longer than 10 years. They will have over a billion heart beats in their lifetimes!

Later in this page we will be referring to the right heart and left heart, which might give you the impression there are two hearts. There is only one heart- we do this only because it helps to understand the flow of blood through the heart.

Glossary of heart terminology

cardiac– pertaining to the heart aerobic– dependent on oxygen for normal physiology
arrhythmia– irregular heart beat anaerobic– not dependent on oxygen for normal physiology
murmur-abnormal flow of blood through the heart valves anemia– low number of red blood cells
atrium-two of the smaller heart chambers systole– when the heart muscle contracts and ejects blood to the arteries
ventricles– two of the larger heart chambers diastole– when the heart relaxes after systole and fills up with blood
hypertrophy-abnormally thickened heart muscle ascites- fluid buildup within the abdomen
cardiomegaly- an enlarged heart pleural effusion– fluid buildup within the thoracic cavity
pulmonary edema– fluid buildup within the lungs polycythemia- excess number of red blood cells
myocardium– the heart muscle microcardia– a small heart

We will repeat this terminology throughout this page to help you eventually get your Latin down pat. Just as it starts making sense we will add more later!

Follow the links to continue on with our heart page:

Vascular Anatomy & Physiology

Heart Anatomy & Physiology

Causes and Symptoms of Heart Disease

How We Diagnose Heart Disease

Cardiac Diseases and Treatments

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How to Read a Radiograph (X-Ray)

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This is a fun section designed to test your diagnostic abilities. Periodically we will show new x-rays (the proper word is radiograph) for you to test your skills, so remember to come back and see what new rads (that is the slang word we sometimes use) are posted on our site.

Before we get started, lets get some basics out of the way. There are five radiographic densities:

Soft tissue– internal organs like the liver and kidneys with a whitish color

Fat– the fat around the internal organs, also with a whitish color. Without this fat you would not be able to differentiate the different internal organs like the liver or kidneys, since they are soft tissue, and have the same radiographic density.

Air– this is black, and is what you see for the lungs in a chest radiograph

Bone– which is brighter than soft tissue or fat

Metal– Vivid, very bright, and hard to miss

Look at each x-ray closely (sometimes very closely) and see if you can figure out what is wrong. We have a couple of clues to help you make an interpretation:

  • Use symmetry when you can. Compare both sides, legs, or whatever else that might be useful.
  • Pull your face away from the screen and scan the whole x-ray before you jump into the details.
  • After you have scanned the whole radiograph look very closely for subtle changes.

First we will show a bunch of fun radiographs of the more unusual pets we see at our hospital. After that we will do some radiograph reading lessons, teaching you about the normal anatomy of dogs and cats. After that is a little test to see how you did. We will stick to abdominal radiographs for the test to make it easier. Good luck, and have fun!

Exotic Animal Radiographs

These first few rads are for a little fun, and to get your eyeballs warmed up for later.

Pregnant Guinea Pig

Iguana bladder stones. Click here to see the surgery to remove a bladder stone in an Iggie. 

Female rabbit with mummified fetuses that are several months old

California Desert Tortoise (CDT) with eggs

Two white bladder stones in a Guinea Pig

 

Normal hawk from our Wildlife Care Program

Calcium sludge in the bladder of a rabbit. This is called hypercalciuria, and you can read our detailed page on it

Did you also see the microchip and the calcium in the kidney?

Chinchilla incisor and molar teeth

 Snake with eggs

Rabbit with a fluid filled uterus

Do you see the two pellets in this hawk’s wing?

Did you also see the fracture in this wing? How should this be handled? You can see what we did in our Wildlife  Care Page

Normal X-Rays of dogs and cats

This is a radiograph of the abdomen of a normal cat that is laying on its right side. The head is towards the left. Use the diagram below to identify the organs.

The stomach has food in it, and the large intestine contains feces. All five radiographic densities are present in this abdominal radiograph. Do you see all of them? 

Air- is in the lungs along with gas in the intestines

S.T. -soft tissue is the liver and kidney

Fat- this is abdominal fat

Bone- lumbar vertebrae

Metal- the R marker to indicate this cat is laying on its right side is made of metal

Here is another normal cat abdominal radiograph, this time with an empty stomach

Here is another one, this time with the spleen and metallic sutures from a spay.

You can easily see the liver (L), stomach (S) kidneys (K) , the small intestines (SI), the large intestine (LI), the urinary bladder (UB), and the Spleen (Sp). The arrow points to stainless steel sutures in the muscle layer from a spay operation.

Abnormal X-Rays

This dog is having a difficult time urinating. Can you tell what is wrong?

Look towards the right side of this abdominal radiograph

Does labeling the organs help in your diagnosis?

The bladder is huge, because this dog is having a difficult time urinating. It is probably due to nerve dysfunction, since the spinal cord has changes called spondylosis. The circle points this out on one of the vertebrae

You can learn more about this problem, called spondylosis, from our arthritis page

This is a dog abdominal radiograph. Notice anything unusual?

Again, look towards the right side

You can see the circle around the numerous stones (called calculi) in the urinary bladder

Did you also notice the stones in the kidney and pelvic urethra?

Our web page on bladder stones has lots of good information

This cat is labeled for you. Anything fishy?

Look towards the left side of the radiograph this time

Did you see the pellet in the neck? Look again at the radiograph above, its plain as day.

Now that you are an expert at reading radiographs give the following one a try. It is from a cat that is straining to urinate and has blood in its urine. The answer is below, along with a picture with arrows pointing to the abnormalities.

This cat has 2 stones in its urinary bladder (click here to learn more about them and see a surgery of how they are removed). The stones are radiopaque, which means they show up easily on the radiograph. Some bladder stones are radiolucent, and can only be seen by injecting dye or air into the urinary bladder.

The arrows point to the bladder stones, along with the faint metallic sutures from a spay

Pretty easy so far, huh? Don’t get too confident just yet, our next few are a little harder. Look over the next few abnormal radiographs and send us an e-mail with your answer. If you aren’t sure and just need some clues e-mail us also and we will help you. Good Luck!

Abnormal X-Rays

Now that you are experts at reading x-rays, you can put your newfound skills to work. Email us at vet@lbah.com for the answers.

  1. What do you think about this cat radiograph?

2. This radiograph is an abdomen view from a very sick dog. It is 13 years old and losing weight

 

3. This is from an elderly dog that is losing weight

3. This dog is limping on its rear leg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Home Care of the Surgical Patient

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When you pick up your pet after surgery you will be given a chance to talk with our staff or surgeon, and be given post operative instructions specifically for your pet and the surgery performed. These are the instructions to follow. The information on this page is good general information on other things to do at home, as long as they don’t contradict your post operative instructions.

When your pet first returns home from surgery let it have a calm and quiet spot away from other pets and children. Put it in a warm area without any drafts, and make sure it is able lay down on something comfortable.

It might be lethargic from anesthesia and the pain medication it has received, which is what we want so that it is comfortable and does not bother the incision site.

After it is home and settled, offer a small amount of water. Even though most pets are fasted prior to surgery, at our hospital they are give intravenous fluids before, during, and after surgery, so do not worry if your pet does not drink initially.

If it drinks, and does not vomit, offer small amounts of water periodically over the next several hours, and then offer small amounts of food the same way. Give it a chance to go outside to the bathroom several times.

Use all medication, especially pain medication, as directed. What might seem like pain can sometimes be confusion after the day’s activities and surgery. It is rare for a pet to be painful after surgery. We take special precautions so that does not happen. Some of these precautions include:

Preanesthetic pain patch and sedation

Local anesthetic at the surgical site

Laser surgery

Post operative pain injection

Post operative pain medication at home

We go overboard on pain control, and in addition to all the pain medications already mentioned, we use the cold laser to minimize swelling and post operative pain at the incision site while your pet is still under anesthesia. This cat is getting this treatment after its spay (OVH) surgery

Here it is in action after a dog neuter

 Indications that your pet is in pain include:

Crying

Excess panting

Unable to find a comfortable place to sit or lay down

If your pet seems painful several hours after returning home please call us. Our anesthesia page has more on pain control and the precautions we take to minimize pain.

Many pets will go home with an E-Collar (Elizabethan Collar) to prevent them from licking or chewing at the incision site. Leave this collar on at all times until sutures are removed, unless you are in direct supervision. Some people take the collar off after a few days when healing is progressing well and the collar seemingly is not needed. This coincides with the itchy phase of the healing process, and pets can cause damage to the incision, or worse.

IMG_7070

Make sure you put your E-Collar on your pet and not on yourself!

Observe the incision site several times per day. A minor amount of redness and swelling is usual. If it seems excessive call us and we can check it if necessary.

 

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