In the early years of veterinary cardiology, the only tools available for examining dogs and cats were a veterinarian's hands, a stethoscope, and an x-ray machine. With the rise of veterinary cardiology as a specialty and the extraordinary research advances of the past 30 years, our understanding of the complexities of the canine and feline hearts has improved vastly.
Dogs and cats share many cardiovascular conditions with humans — from arrhythmias and chronic valvular disease to cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Today, dogs and cats with failing hearts are living longer, healthier lives.
Veterinary cardiologists have transformed what were once viewed as miracles into the routine — from implanting pacemakers into dogs, cats, and even horses to using balloon catheters to correct valve obstructions. Adapting some of the newest thinking in human medicine to benefit cardiac care for dogs and cats has resulted in state—of—the—art diagnostics and procedures. A gigantic leap forward: introducing echocardiography, a noninvasive technique, to view the heart and determine its structure and function. Today's veterinary cardiologists are also using precision diagnostic tools such as CT and MRI evaluations. A number of conditions can be improved or even cured with interventional procedures: Patent Ductus Arteriosus, Congenital valvular stenosis, and radiofrequency ablation of arrhythmias among others.
Today, we understand that certain dog breeds are more prone to specific conditions — such as the equivalent of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in German Shepherd puppies, arrhythmic cardiomyopathy in Boxers, dilated cardiomyopathy in Dobermans, and chronic valvular disease in King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, to name just a few.
We know more than ever about the unique cardiac diseases of cats. The discovery of the cause of feline dilated cardiomyopathy — a deficiency of the amino acid taurine in commercial cat foods — has saved cats lives by almost abolishing this terrible disease, and inspired other veterinary researchers to search for nutritional causes of cardiomyopathy in other species. We now know that feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — the most common heart disease in cats — is inherited. While there is still no cure, proven drug protocols are helping patients lead more comfortable and longer lives.
(adapted from a page from a document from The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Foundation)