Cardiology: What's good for treating one type of heart disease, isn't good for all

Cardiology: What's good for treating one type of heart disease, isn't good for all

Cardiology expert weighs in on the most critical developments for DVMs
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Aug 01, 2008

Lawndale, Calif. — Treating heart disease in companion animals is an ever-evolving science. And, especially for the aging U.S. pet population, the risks for heart disease increase.

DVM Newsmagazine asked an expert veterinary cardiologist, Michael Lesser, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM (cardiology), to answer questions of current interest to general practitioners.

Lesser is medical director and head cardiologist at Advanced Veterinary Care in Lawndale, Calif., a cardiology referral practice. His areas of expertise include non-invasive techniques such as echocardiography, color flow Doppler ultrasound, electrocardiography and non-invasive blood-pressure monitoring. He also performs interventional cardiology procedures, including pacemaker implantation, balloon valvuloplasty, angiography and coil occlusion for patent ductus arteriosus.

Q: In dealing with heart disease in geriatric patients, what is the most significant challenge for general practitioners?

A: I believe what you're asking is what do I, as a cardiologist, think is the most significant challenge for general practitioners. For me, cardiology is all I do. It's what I know. But the challenge for general practitioners is what do they do, since they're not board-certified?

The biggest challenge for general practitioners, as I see it, is keeping up with new medications and when to use them. There is a great deal of information on new medications to treat heart failure and heart disease. What's important is knowing when to use what medication. In addressing that, it's extremely important that veterinarians keep up on current literature. Practitioners also want to make sure they're getting their information from reliable sources. With the advent of the Internet and these types of resources, a lot of misinformation is out there. Veterinarians need to be vigilant, and always make sure to check sources.

Q: You mention the great challenge in keeping up with new medications. What are some of the new options?

A: Pimobenden and spironolactone are two relatively new drug treatment options.

It's also important to mention that some drugs, although not necessarily the ones I've just mentioned, are being touted for benefits in human medicine. There is much in the literature about improved heart-related therapies in human medicine. But some of that data doesn't cross over to animal patients at this time. In some cases, there is not enough literature to support the cross-over with therapies; in other cases, you just have to drill deeper to find appropriate data to apply to animal patients.

Q: If you had one longstanding myth to bust about cardiology, what might it be?

A: The myth I'd like to bust is this: What's good for one type of heart disease is good for all. Therapies and treatment approaches for humans with heart disease are not always best for dogs or cats with heart disease. Some clients may say, "My sister has heart disease and is on this drug. Why isn't my cat on this same medication?" People often get different types of heart disease than what is seen in dogs and cats.

Q: Could you offer advice on distinguishing a cardiac rhythm disorder from a respiratory arrhythmia?

A: The gold standard in determining one from the other is the ECG. Nothing replaces that. Every cardiologist would tell you this. It's really the only way to truly know the difference. You simply can't diagnose with a stethoscope. I get calls from general practitioners saying, "I've diagnosed this arrhythmia based on listening to the dog." You just can't do that.