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Frankston Heights Veterinary Centre
231 Frankston-Flinders Rd
Frankston, VIC, 3199

nurses@frankstonvet.com.au
frankstonvet.com.au
Phone: 03 5971 4888

With Valentines Day approaching, our focus is on heart health this month, and our practice news features two particular dogs and an organisation close to our hearts.

On the anniversary of Black Saturday we recognise the amazing work of Gus and River, Search and Rescue Dogs, who together with their handlers Andrew and Julie Cowan spent several days in the aftermath of the bushfires locating those who had perished.

Both dogs worked tirelessly and were awarded the National Emergency Medal for their contribution.

Sadly Gus is no longer with us, but is fondly remembered.

River visited us recently, and although in his twighlight years, he remains the gentle, stoic, intelligent dog whose work in those days made such a difference to so many families.

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Contents of this newsletter

01  Recognising a broken heart

02  This study was EPIC!

03  Why heartworm prevention is so important

04  A healthy mouth equals a healthy heart

05  If cats sent Valentine's Day cards

01 Recognising a broken heart

We're not talking about a broken heart from lost love here but instead heart disease.

Most of the signs of heart disease are related to a decrease in the function of the heart. The signs can be subtle and sometimes hard to detect. Being able to recognise some of the early signs of this disease can make a big difference for your pet. It means we can initiate medical treatment and in most cases, ease the workload on the heart, meaning your pet will live a longer and healthier life.

Look out for these signs:

+ Coughing, especially at night

+ A reluctance to exercise and tiring more easily on walks

+ Laboured or fast breathing

+ Weakness or fainting associated with exercise

+ An enlarged abdomen

+ Weight loss or poor appetite

This example of why at least an annual check-up with us is important. We will always listen to your pet's heart as part of any physical exam and this allows us to detect any changes early. Sometimes we will hear a murmur (abnormal blood flow) or an arrhythmia (irregular rhythm). These may be reason for us to perform more tests such as x-rays, ultrasound and an ECG.

There are some excellent medications available to help a pet suffering from heart disease and the good news is that these can help your pet live a longer and near normal life.

If you are ever worried about your pet's health, you should call us for advice. 

02 This study was EPIC!

Recent groundbreaking research into canine heart disease is changing the way we treat one of the most common heart conditions.

It is estimated that one dog in ten may suffer from some type of heart disease and there it's a particular type of heart disease called mitral valve disease that can lead to congestive heart failure, reduced quality of life and an overall shortened lifespan.

The EPIC (Evaluation of Pimobendan In dogs with Cardiomegaly) Study was the largest veterinary cardiology study in history. This groundbreaking study set out to answer a key question: Can a particular drug (pimobendan) delay the onset of congestive heart failure (CHF) in dogs with mitral valve disease?

The study, which began in 2010 and ran through to 2015, included investigators at 36 study centres in 11 nations across 4 continents. Investigators were held to rigorous scientific standards, and an independent team compiled and reported the findings.

The results concluded that dogs who received pimobendan experienced a 15-month delay in onset of clinical signs of CHF, cardiac-related death, or euthanasia. Some have described these results as 'epic' (pardon the pun!)

And the best news is that with x-rays and an ultrasound of the heart, along with the guidelines from the results of this study, we are now able to determine which of our patients with mitral valve disease will benefit from medication and which can be placed on a monitoring program. This means we can help your pet live a longer and healthier life.

Dr Will Gartrell has trained with a veterinary cardiac specialist and is able to perform the diagnositc ultrasound at Frankston Height.

If you have any questions about the management of heart disease or anything to do with your pet's health, we are always here to help.

03 Why heartworm prevention is so important

How many pesky mosquitoes have you seen this summer? Here's some food for thought: wherever there are mosquitoes, there is the risk of heartworm disease for your pet! Mosquitoes carry heartworm from an infected dog or fox to another by biting and feeding.

When an infected mosquito feeds on your pet's blood, the heartworm larvae enter the bloodstream. The scary part is that these larvae mature into worms that can reach up to 30cm in length in the chambers of the heart and larger blood vessels leading to heart failure. It is at this point that the disease can be fatal. Dogs are more commonly affected by heartworm disease but cats may also be at risk.

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 and established in the fox population.

The take-home point is that with changing weather patterns and subsequent alterations in the distribution of mosquito populations, heartworm disease can be unpredictable. This is why prevention is SO important as we just don't know where it might strike next.

Prevention of heartworm is far better than an attempt at a cure but it's important to realise that not all heartworm prevention is the same so it's best to ask us what is the best prevention for your pet.

Most importantly, you need to be aware that many of the intestinal 'all-wormer' tablets do not prevent against heartworm infection.

There are topical treatments, oral treatments and a yearly injection for dogs. Ask us for the most suitable prevention for your pet - we will make sure your pet is suitably protected.

04 A healthy mouth equals a healthy heart

Did you know that if your pet is suffering from dental disease they may be at risk of heart disease too?

When dental disease strikes, plaque and tartar that accumulate on the teeth lead to infection of the gums. Bacteria from this infection travel in the bloodstream around the body and can cause infection in the heart. This commonly occurs in the heart's lining and valves and is known as endocarditis. 

And it's not only the heart that is affected; the kidneys, liver and lungs can all be damaged by the bacteria.

Thankfully many of these problems can be reversed if dental disease is treated and the health of your pet's mouth is improved. 

Top tips for the prevention of dental disease

1. Lift your pet's lip and have a look and a smell. If you notice any yellowing of the teeth or redness of the gums OR your pet's breath smells a bit 'off', it is time for a checkup with us.

2. Regardless of whether you think something's not quite right, get your pet's mouth checked regularly by us. The earlier we spot an issue the better the outcome. Dental checkups at least once a year should be non-negotiable. 

3. Get your pet eating the right diet. It's essential that our pets chew their food! There are some excellent dental diets available and they work really well so ask us for the best recommendation.

4. Brush your pet's teeth. This is considered gold standard but just make sure you use a pet-approved toothpaste.

Don't be tempted by offers of 'anaesthesia free dentistry." This form of teeth cleaning is simply cosmetic and it fails to address the root of the problem (removing the plaque and tartar and subsequent bacteria from under the gum-line). It is also frightening for a consious animal to be restrained sufficiently to this procedure. You can read more information about this here.

We recommend a dental check-up at least once a year. Call us to book your pet in for a dental check-up today as you might be improving the health of their heart too. 

05 If cats sent Valentine's Day cards

It's Valentine's Day this month and while it may not be everyone's cup of tea, we think this take on the whole event is pretty funny. If you click here you'll find '14 Valentine's Day cards you could only get from a cat.'

And we definitely DO NOT recommend giving your cat any of the favourite toys from card #14! They are all potentially dangerous if ingested by your cat!