Veterinary with a German Shepherd dog performing a recognition in the clinic

Matters of the heart!

Following on from our TV Vets appearance on ITV’s This Morning last week, we thought we would do a short feature about the heart condition featured on the show.

Sub-Aortic Stenosis

This heart condition generally affects larger pure-breed dogs such as Labradors, German Shepherds and Newfoudlands. It is the second most common heart condition in dogs, and has a range of severity and prognosis.

“Sub-aortic stenosis (SAS) is when the passageway from the heart to the aorta is narrower than it should be. It then leads to the heart having to work much harder than normal. Some cases will only have formed a mild stricture but in severe cases the narrowing is life-endangering”.

The condition is a complex genetic problem. This means it is usually inherited due to a faulty gene-combination from one or both parents. It is impossible to predict which puppies will be born with the disease and incredibly hard to prevent or “breed out”. Generally most owners will not notice any symptoms straight away. As a puppy with SAS grows older then symptoms such as weakness, difficulty breathing or in some severe cases sadly sudden death may occur.

Diagnosis is normally made at the puppies primary vaccine when the attending Vet will detect a heart murmur. The prognosis tends to depend upon the severity of the heart murmur and the age it is detected. Some puppies will outgrow mild heart murmurs but if it is still audible at around 6 months then SAS (or PDA-the most common of heart conditions) is likely to have developed.

Treatment for this condition is available. Typically dogs diagnosed with SAS are treated medically as this has been proven to be the most effective and least invasive treatment. Beta blockers are prescribed which help to reduce the heart rate, blood pressure and help to control abnormal heart rhythm. This medication is needed for the rest of the effected dog’s life. The effectiveness of treatment will depend upon the severity of the condition but dogs that receive nothing will not usually live beyond 3 years.

Surgery is available in the form of balloon valvuloplasty. However, it is not proven to be any more effective than medication and is an extremely high risk procedure as it involves placing your pet under anaesthetic.

Despite being a very serious condition and there being no way of correcting the defect in the heart, it is possible to help treat the disease to extend and improve quality of life.


pet health advice

Paul’s Points: “It is important to remember that not all heart murmurs will evolve into a serious chronic heart condition. If, sadly, this is the case please advise the breeder or rehoming centre you adopted your puppy from. It is important that all other litter mates and both parents are checked wherever possible”.

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