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I. Ljungvall1 1Sweden
Ingrid Ljungvall
Associate Professor, DVM, PhD
Department of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
Information and instructions concerning home- monitoring of dogs and cats diagnosed with heart disease should be provided owners of animals in pre-clinical as well as clinical stages of heart disease. In both stages, the aim is to detect early (mild) signs of congestive heart disease (CHF), or other complications that can affect patients with heart disease. Pertient owner-information might improve the quality of life of diseased animals, as the owners observe and manage their animals on a daily basis, whereas clinicians only occasionally meet the animals.
Dogs and cats in pre-clinical heart disease
Many dogs and cats diagnosed with heart disease
will never develop clinical signs related to their heart disease, and life-expectancy might be minimally, if at
all, affected. However, for selected patients, a high risk exists for future development of signs related to their heart disease. Accordingly, owners should be provided information about the current heart disease and the prognosis (if possible). Furthermore, owners should be informed about common signs of complications of heart disease in dogs and cats; such as tachypnea, dyspnea, cough (not commonly observed in cats), anorexia, abdominal distension, fatigue, exercise intolerance, alterations in sleeping behavior, and syncopal episode/ collapse. However, these signs are not specific for
heart disease, and diseases other than cardiac might precipitate similar signs.
The initial clinical signs of left and right-sided CHF are often vague and mild, but may be aggravated within days or sometimes weeks. Should signs of significance be detected at home, the owner should be recommended to seek a veterinary consultation for their animal in order to evaluate if the signs could be explained by the heart disease diagnosed.
In cases at increased risk for future development
of left-sided CHF, the owners should be instructed
to count resting (RRR) or sleeping respiratory rates (SRR) at approximately 10 different occasions in the animals home-environment in order to establish normal respiratory rates for the specific dog or cat. Although variation between individuals exists, RRR and SRR <30/ min generally is seen in healthy dogs and cats as well
as in dogs and cats with pre-clinical heart disease. When a normal range for the individual dog or cat has been established, more infrequent measurements of SRR or RRR can be performed, as long as the animal appear healthy and alert at home. The owner should
be instructed to contact their veterinarian if RRR and SRR > 30/min are noted at repeated measurements in the future. It could be of value to also perform a follow up examination on individuals demonstrating a steep increase in RRR or SRR, having measurements towards 30/min at repeated measurements, especially if the owner concurrently notes other signs of disease. The owner should be instructed to count RRR and/or SRR
at multiple times. Preferably RRR/SRR should be <30/ min during rest or sleep. The owner should contact the veterinarian if RRR and/or SRR >30 is noted frequently/ at several occasions at home, as RRR/SRR < 30 is to be expected in the majority of dogs and cats well stabilized by cardiac medications. However, the owner should to not worry too much if RRR/SRR > 30 is measured at some few occasions, as also other factors; such as REM sleep cycles, high environmental temperature or stress (if the animal is awake) can affect the respiratory rate.
An Urban Experience

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