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Editors' Note: Matters of the heart


Dr. Heather Lewellen reports on how a recent cardiology workshop demonstrated how heart disease and heart failure don't change, but the way we treat and manage them changes constantly.

February may be American Heart Month, but this September I had the pleasure of attending a veterinary cardiology workshop. The featured speakers were Barret Bulmer, DVM, MS, DACVIM (cardiology) from Tufts University and Sonya Gordon, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM (cardiology) from Texas A&M University. I brought home so many practice gems from that workshop, I couldn't wait to come back and share them with you!

Heather Lewellen, DVM

Heart disease and heart failure don't change, but the way we treat and manage them changes constantly. Keeping up on those changes is our responsibility as conscientious practitioners. Here's some stuff I took away from the workshop that you might not know that could help you in your management of patients with these diseases.


  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can occur in cats as early as 3 months of age.

  • So called innocent murmurs are atypical in adult dogs.

  • 100% of cats with arrhythmias do have heart disease.

  • In dogs with degenerative valvular disease, the vast majority of heart enlargement happens within the year before the dogs develop heart failure.


  • Studies in people show that patients treated with a team approach do better and that patients treated by a specialist only do less well. So it appears that the primary care provider is critical for assimilating all the diagnoses and treatment plans.

  • Great quote from Dr. Gordon: "Treating terminal disease is like buying an Indian Summer."

  • The way to minimize emergency visits is to schedule regular check-up visits.

  • Using the ACVIM's grading system for heart disease can facilitate consistency in diagnoses and communication.


Also, did you know about the Cardiac Education Group (CEG)? The CEG includes board-certified veterinary cardiologists from both academia and private practice. It offers independent recommendations for and provides resources and information on diagnosing, treating, and managing heart disease and heart failure in dogs and cats.

Their website (cardiaceducationgroup.org) contains interactive, fun case studies and opportunities for CE credit. Their Learning Center is packed with useful information, such as heart sounds and a radiograph viewer. I played on that site for quite awhile and never got bored. So if it's time for a little cardio refresher for you or your team, head on over there and check it out.


Here's one last tip from me to you—kind of a pet cause of mine, if you will. Did you know that used pacemakers, when people are finished with them, can be donated to veterinary teaching hospitals to be implanted in dogs that need them? When a family member passed away, we gathered his and five other pacemakers from the funeral home and donated them to the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine. Until that time, the funeral home had no idea such a donation was acceptable. So help me get the word out, will you?

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