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Treating Congestive Heart Failure

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Karsten Schober, DVM, Ph.D., recently concluded a clinical study at Ohio State University that sought to utilize cardiac ultrasound to identify and stage congestive heart failure (CHF) in dogs. Twenty-one dogs with asymptomatic dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), 23 dogs with degenerative mitral valve disease (MVD) and 10 dogs with CHF caused by MVD or DCM were enrolled, for a total of 63 canine patients.

Any dog with dilated cardiomyopathy or MVD was welcome to the study unless it was treated with high doses of diuretics. The study began in 2006 and concluded in April.

“The patients were given a clinical exam, chest radiography, cardiac ultrasound, blood chemistry, NTproANP and NTproBNP,” Dr. Schober says. “The dogs’ owners were asked to monitor respiration at home three times a day. Patients were re-evaluated in five to 14 days, and the effects of treatment based on the initial diagnosis and home monitoring were assessed.”

The results of the study may help to diagnose CHF earlier, better stratify cardiovascular risk, tailor therapy to specific dog needs, and reduce the exposure of radiation required for repeated thoracic radiography, which is current protocol.

“A lot of thinking has to go behind the final judgment when making a diagnosis of CHF,” Schober says. “Some diseases are straightforward, but there are a lot of variables when it comes to the heart. Small dogs can typically have a longer life expectancy after a diagnosis, especially since small-breed heart issues are typically MVD and progress slower, while large-breed dogs can show signs of DCM and deteriorate quickly especially if untreated.”

Schober will present his findings in June at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine conference. He says that once all the data is configured, he can better predict the heart failure rate during an animal’s treatment using less invasive methods.

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