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This information sheet provides key aspects of monitoring your pet with heart failure at home and explains the parameters to record. These need to be monitored frequently (daily) in the few weeks after initial diagnosis and commencement of medications, or at any time when things are unstable, such as a relapse or progression in symptoms. The frequency of recording can be less (weekly) when everything is stable and your pet is happy. You can record all of these using the booklet we provide you with at your appointment, or simply use a diary or computer database to keep a record. Remember to always bring your record back with you to every visit, both with us (your cardiologist) and your primary vet.
Sleeping Respiratory Rate (SRR)
This should be recorded when your pet has had a period of rest and is asleep. This might be by your feet or in bed. It is best to record this when your pet falls asleep when you are in the room, as opposed to going into the room where your pet is already asleep – as they usually wake up when you enter.
Breathing is often best seen when your pet is lying on the side and the chest and flank can be seen to rise and fall. A breath in and then out is recorded as one breath. The rate is given as the number of breaths in 1 minute.
Heart rate (HR) at rest
This is more difficult to record, but it is possible to do and it provides very useful information. The heart rate when ‘in the vets’ is always somewhat elevated because of excitement or nervousness, so does not represent the real heart rate at home.
The heartbeat can be felt by placing your hand on the chest over the heart, just inside the ‘armpits’ on the left side, but can be either side of the chest. You could purchase a cheap stethoscope and learn to listen to the heart rate. Feeling the pulse in the leg does not always represent the heart rate, as some abnormal or weak heartbeats might not produce a palpable pulse, so we prefer that you do not use this method.
You could purchase a heart rate monitor, and whilst these are a little more expensive, over the course of your pet’s life, often represent good value for money. The rate is given as the number of heartbeats in 1 minute.
The above instructional videos have been made to help you monitor your pet’s heart condition at home, these techniques will have been discussed with you during your consultation with our Specialist Cardiology team, if you have any questions regarding these techniques, do not hesitate to contact us and speak to a member of the Cardiology team.
One of the effects of heart failure is the accumulation of excess fluid in the lungs (oedema), chest cavity (pleural fluid) or abdomen (ascites). One litre of fluid is equivalent to 1 kg in weight. Thus monitoring your pet’s body weight is a useful means to track the loss or gain in fluid accumulation.
We recommend weighing your pet weekly. It is often best to use the scales at your own vets for consistency and accuracy.
Your pet’s appetite may reflect his/her well-being. It is a simple scoring system, comparing appetite to when your pet was well prior to this illness and is as follows:
Once any congestion has resolved with treatment, a return to some exercise is good for the well-being of your pet and for the circulation. The ability to exercise also reflects the ability of the heart to function and circulate blood, so it can be a useful indication of how well your pet is doing. Again this is a simple scoring system, comparing the ability to exercise to when your pet was well prior to this illness and is as follows:
Coughing is a common symptom in dogs (it is rare in cats). This can occur for a few reasons. One is that an enlarged heart presses on the windpipe, compressing it and this triggers a cough; it probably feels like something is stuck in the throat. Another is the accumulation of fluid in the lungs (oedema), this needs to be moderately severe to trigger a cough. Then of course a dog (or cat) can be coughing secondary to various lung conditions such as bronchitis (or asthma in cats). Monitoring the frequency and severity of a cough can therefore be useful.
The Happiness Factor
This is a surprisingly useful overall score of how well your pet is. It is a simple scoring system, comparing how happy your pet is compared to when your pet was well, prior to this illness and is as follows:
Why should I bring my pet to Willows?
Our cardiology service is led by a team of recognised, accredited Specialists and we aim to provide the best possible care and treatment for your pet in our state-of-the art hospital.
Our cardiology team works closely with the imaging Specialists who run Willows sophisticated imaging facilities, as well as with expert anaesthesia Specialists and 24-hour veterinary and nursing staff, all of whom help to optimise the potential for our patients to make a full and uneventful recovery.
Who do I speak to if I have any questions?