Thanks to continuing advancements in veterinary medicine, many feline and canine heart conditions can be treated with close monitoring, lifestyle changes, medication, surgery, or a combination of them all. At Rowan Vets, we work with a visiting Cardiology Specialist:
Hannah Stephenson BVMS (Hons) CertSAM Dip ECVIM-CA (Cardiology) MRCVS
RCVS & European Specialist in Veterinary Cardiology
About HS Cardiology
Hannah is a Veterinary Cardiology Specialist for dogs and cats and provides a friendly, caring service on a referral basis. She uses the most up-to-date and technologically advanced equipment available and visits our practices when a pet’s case requires her expertise.
Following a consultation with one of our Vets, your pet will be referred to HS Cardiology if a heart murmur, abnormal rhythm, or another condition is suspected. We can also refer your pet for heart screening prior to breeding. Your referral appointment with Hannah will be at our practice also, so there’s no need to travel anywhere else to a referral centre.
What you can expect in your referral appointment
Typically, you will have a consultation with Hannah and then a full heart scan will be performed. Your pet may also need to have blood samples, blood pressure measurement, an ECG or x-rays as part of their work-up. Sedation it not usually required, except for chest x-rays. Usually you will be able to collect your pet later in the day and Hannah will explain your pet’s long term needs and any follow-up required.
Your pet’s ongoing care and treatment will be managed by one of our Vets, who will be able to discuss any ongoing concerns and changes to medications with Hannah. Repeat heart scans and investigations will be performed as required.
Read more about what to expect if your pet is referred to Hannah – HS Cardiology Referrals
How does the Vet know if my cat or dog has heart disease?
As part of a full health check, your Vet will listen to your dog’s heart beat through a stethoscope. This is a very straight forward, non-invasive, and quick procedure that can give the Vet a good indication as to whether your pet’s heart is working as it should.
Your pet will be referred to a specialist if your Vet suspects they have heart disease. Pets with heart disease may have a heart murmur, be coughing, have difficulty breathing or may have fainting episodes, among other signs. Making a definitive diagnosis of heart disease in pets can be challenging, and needs specialist equipment such as advanced ultrasound and ECG. Specialists have extra knowledge in their area of interest and work closely with local Vets to help them make a diagnosis of heart disease in the animals they treat.
A specialist is a Vet who has undergone extensive training after they have qualified, to give them extra knowledge in a particular subject area. In the UK, specialists must have been awarded a Diploma by either the European or American colleges, and/or be an RCVS Recognised Specialist.
Common heart conditions
The most common heart disease in dogs is ‘Mitral Valve Disease’ (MVD). It can affect all breeds but is most common in small and medium-sized dogs from 4-5 years onwards. However, some breeds, such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Chihuahua, Fox Terrier and Boston Terrier are even more likely to develop this disease.
Cardiomyopathy, more commonly known as heart disease, is any disease affecting the heart muscle itself and is the most common form of heart disease and heart failure in cats.
Part of being a responsible breeder means avoiding breeding from animals with an increased risk of developing heart disease. In some cat and dog breeds, testing prior to breeding is recommended by the breed council to try and reduce the incidence of a specific disease in that breed.
Some pets are born with congenital conditions that are usually detected early in life. Others can develop acquired conditions (not present from birth) that are likely to be caused by an inherited genetic defect, for example, dilated cardiomyopathy or Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) in dogs and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats.
For dogs, clubs with heart testing schemes in place include the Boxer, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newfoundland, Dobermann, and Irish Wolfhound, amongst others. For cats, breeds such as Bengals, Sphynx cats, and Maine Coons also have breed testing programmes.
Hannah is one of the Cardiologists approved by the Veterinary Cardiovascular Society to perform heart testing on pets. She also has a special interest in Great Danes and the study of dilated cardiomyopathy.
If you have any concerns about your pet’s heart health or require a breed screening referral, please book an appointment with one of our Vets.