Last Update: 1/19/2018 10:42:00 AM
Ask the vet's pets: Here's how to assess a dog's heart function
Dear Daisy Dog: AJ, my 10-year-old Chihuahua, takes enalapril for his chronic heart valve disease. The veterinarian recommended chest X-rays or an ultrasound with the cardiologist, but I can't afford either. Without them, how will I know if AJ's heart disease is getting worse?
Daisy responds: Monitor his sleeping respiratory rate (SRR), the number of breaths he takes per minute while he's sleeping quietly. Count how many times AJ's chest expands (inhalation), gets smaller (exhalation) and then pauses; each cycle is one breath.
Don't count when he's actively dreaming and his body is twitching, or when he's especially warm after falling asleep in the sun.
Research shows that healthy dogs and those with stable heart conditions have an SRR of up to 25 breaths per minute. Studies indicate that an abnormally high SRR can predict the onset of congestive heart failure, the term used when the heart is so weak that fluid builds up in the lungs and breathing becomes difficult.
Check AJ's SRR daily for a week to establish his baseline average. Then monitor and record his SRR every two or three days. If you see the number increasing, return to daily monitoring.
If his SRR climbs above 25 for two or three days, call the animal hospital to schedule an appointment. Your veterinarian may decide to transition AJ to a prescription heart diet, or add one or more heart medicines to improve his heart function.
Dear Christopher Cat: My cat Gryffin is a pussycat at home, but he turns into a lion when it's time to go to the vet. He fights me when I put him in his carrier, he yowls during the car ride and he's aggressive with the veterinary staff. Any suggestions?
Christopher responds: First, accustom Gryffin to his carrier. Line it with a soft towel and leave it in a quiet corner of your home so Gryffin gets comfortable sleeping in it. If he doesn't use the carrier, entice him by placing treats or his food bowl inside.
About 30 minutes before you load Gryffin into his carrier for his veterinary appointment, spray the towel and the inside of the carrier with Feliway. Spray a second towel with Feliway, and use it to cover the carrier in the car and the hospital reception area.
Feliway is a synthetic version of the feline facial pheromone that cats deposit when they rub their faces on furniture, doorways and their favorite people. This odorless substance promotes calmness in cats.
If these steps aren't enough to make Gryffin comfortable at the animal hospital, ask your veterinarian about giving him gabapentin at home before the appointment. It's easily mixed with canned food or given inside a treat. Research in cats has shown this medication is effective at decreasing stress and struggling during veterinary appointments.
Ask the Vet's Pets appears Fridays in the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com.