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Mira Mar Veterinary Hospital
58 Cockburn Rd
Albany, WA, 6330
Phone: 08 9841 5422

Welcome to our February newsletter!

If you have been into the clinic in the past month, you almost certainly will have noticed that we have a new veterinary locum, Farand Thompson.  Farand joins us from Broome, so he is still adjusting to the Albany weather, but we are sure you will like his calm, gentle and thorough approach.  Please feel free to pop in and say hi to Farand!

We traditionally like to use the month of February and particularly Valentine's Day to highlight the importance of heart health in our pets.  Heart disease can affect all dogs, generally in the later stages of life.  The good news is that the majority can be well managed for some time if caught early, diagnosed properly, and treated with the right medication.  

We also have some information on how you can help in the aftermath of the devastating bushfires that have affected our country this summer.  Every little bit counts!

Please enjoy!

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Our new vet locum, Farand Thompson

Contents of this newsletter

01  Bushfire crisis - how you can help

02  Do pets get heart disease?

03  Case study: mitral valve disease

04  Grain free diets and broken hearts

05  Does my dog need heartworm prevention?

06  Walking the Dog Day - Feb 22nd 2020

01 Bushfire crisis - how you can help

We continue to feel devastated for all involved in the bushfire crisis. The effects of this disaster have rocked us all, and we are deeply saddened to see the impact it has had on our wildlife and livestock, as well as the communities and beautiful bushland that makes Australia so unique. It will take many years to rebuild communities and restore crucial habitat for our beautiful fauna. We would like to remind you of ways you can help our wildlife in particular:

Every little bit counts, and while this list is small, there are many other organisations worth donating to as well.

Locally, the Kalgan Bushfire Brigade is fundraising for some Thermal Imaging Cameras, and the Bluff Knoll Fire Facility are raising money for a shed to house a fire fighting vehicle closer to the Stirling Range National Park.

02 Do pets get heart disease?

Absolutely! Heart disease is not uncommon in dogs and cats, and knowing what to look out for is important as it can really make a difference to your pet’s life. Our feline friends are particularly good at hiding signs of heart disease, but the condition can sneak up in all pets. To make things more complicated, heart disease may not always present with obvious clinical signs. This is just another reason why a check up with us at least once a year is vital (we will always listen to your pet’s heart and lungs).

Signs of heart disease in dogs:

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • A reluctance to exercise and tiring more easily on walks
  • Weakness or fainting

The signs to look out for in both dogs and cats:

  • Laboured or fast breathing
  • An enlarged abdomen
  • Weight loss or poor appetite

If we have a concern about your pet's heart, we will recommend a series of chest x-rays and possibly an ultrasound of the heart. An ECG, or further examination with a heart specialist may also be required. Thankfully we have a number of medications available to help improve your pet's heart function and advancements in the management of heart disease means if we are able to detect the disease early enough, your pet’s quality of life and life expectancy may be very good.

If you think your pet is showing one of the above signs, it is important we check them over. Call us if you are worried about your pet or if they are due for a health check.

03 Case study: mitral valve disease

Jack the cheeky eight year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel came in for his yearly vaccination and routine health check. During the examination, a heart murmur was detected. After questioning his owners, there was some concern that he may have been a bit slower on his walks lately too.

A heart murmur is simply an abnormal sound produced when blood is pumped through the heart. It can be caused by a diseased heart valve or other abnormality, but can also occur when blood flows very fast across normal structures (especially if a pet is excited).

X-rays of Jack’s heart revealed his heart was enlarged but there was no congestion (blood pooling) in his lungs. His owners opted for a more in-depth work up which included an ultrasound of his heart. This looked at all the structures of the heart more closely, and determined that the underlying cause of the heart murmur was mitral valve disease.

This disease is common in small breed dogs and is caused by a ‘wearing out’ of the mitral valve, which separates the left atrium and left ventricle. It can lead to congestive heart failure and can be fatal.

Jack was started on a medication that helps to improve the pumping mechanism of his heart. This will slow the progression of heart failure, and it reduces the amount of work the heart has to do over time. Studies have shown that this medication can improve a dog’s longevity and quality of life if started early enough.

It is likely that early detection means that Jack will live a longer and healthier life. He also has more energy on his walks and is one happy little pooch!

If you have any concerns about your pet, we are always here to help.

04 Grain free diets and broken hearts

Grain free diets have become more popular over the last few years, as people inaccurately assume these boutique diets are better for their pets. But there’s more to the story...

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA is investigating a possible link between dogs fed grain free diets and an increased number of cases of the heart condition known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). This disease commonly affects giant breeds such as Great Danes and Boxers and it is suspected to have an underlying genetic component.

More recently, the disease has been seen in other breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Miniature Schnauzers. There has been some suggestion that this could be linked to these dogs being fed a grain free diet. Specifically, the FDA stated that ‘potatoes or legumes such as peas, lentils, other ‘pulses’, and their protein, starch and fiber” were the main ingredients of the food in several cases of DCM reported to the agency. It is also not known if these cases of DCM are associated with low taurine levels (an amino acid crucial for heart function), a cause of DCM in cats.

How these ‘grain free’ ingredients may be linked with DCM (if at all) is currently unknown, and although the media (and social media groups) have been known to report a ‘direct’ link between ‘grain-free’ foods and DCM, we cannot say for sure this is the case.

In the meantime, we recommend you discuss your pet’s diet with us and ask us for a recommendation. And it’s best to avoid feeding your pet a grain free diet until more research has been done in this area.

05 Does my dog need heartworm prevention?

Albany is in a very unique part of Australia, and is one of the few places where the heartworm parasite has not been diagnosed.  Generally, we do not consider heartworm preventative necessary if your pet remains in this area.  In saying that, if you travel with your pet to areas outside of Albany, then heartworm prevention is one of the most important things you can do. Heartworm infection can be fatal, so please take the correct precautions to avoid the risk.

Why heartworm can be deadly
When an infected mosquito feeds on your pet, heartworm larvae enter the bloodstream. These nightmarish worms then mature, reaching up to 30cm in length! They can eventually become lodged in your pet's heart, leading to heart failure and death. Treatment of heartworm is complicated and often has a poor outcome.

Heartworm distribution
The prevalence of heartworm in Australia has been mainly in tropical and subtropical coastal regions, but in recent decades it has become increasingly prevalent in more southern areas. Changing weather patterns and subsequent alterations in the distribution of mosquito populations has meant that heartworm disease can be unpredictable. This is why prevention is SO important as we just don't know where it might pop up next.

What’s the best prevention?
Prevention of heartworm is far easier than an attempt at treatment but it's also important to realise that not all heartworm prevention is the same. There are topical treatments, oral treatments and a yearly injection for dogs. You should also be aware that many of the intestinal 'all-wormer' tablets do not prevent heartworm infection.

Ask us for the best prevention for your pet and we will make sure your pet is suitably protected against heartworm.

06 Walking the Dog Day - Feb 22nd 2020
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How better to ensure good heart health for you and your dog than going for a nice invigorating walk?  February 22nd every year is WALK THE DOG DAY!

So grab your dog (or grab someone else's, make sure you ask first!), grab a lead, grab some water and don't forget the bags for the 'you-know-what', and get out there walking!  We know your dog will enjoy the outing.  Down the street, at the park, along the beach, in the bush - the possibilities are endless!