Q: As the pet population ages, what breeds (dogs and cats) are most susceptible to cardiac problems?
A: As far as the aging population goes, all breeds of dogs and cats are prone to heart disease. It's not breed-specific in the
aging population. Heart disease is a common illness in geriatric patients, whether dogs or cats. The reality is that they're
living longer with better preventive health-care and wellness exams. Owners are more in tune with pet health issues.
In the younger population, however, heart disease definitely is purebred- specific.
Q: Could you discuss heart murmurs and their role in a clinical evaluation of heart disease?
A: Detection is extremely important in evaluating for early heart disease. Especially in the case of an asymptomatic patient,
if a veterinarian finds a heart murmur, that's a clue that something is not right with the heart. That's why it is highly
recommended that clients bring patients in for yearly exams, especially older patients. The onset of a murmur can be the beginning
of other symptoms. Catching it early and providing aggressive treatment potentially can prolong survival in these animals.
Q: What about auscultation as an assessment of a cardiac patient?
A: Listening with the stethoscope is a very important, integral part of an assessment of any cardiac patient. X-rays and other
diagnostics all contribute to the exam, but the stethoscope is a part that can't be skipped. That's why all of us walk around
Q: What are some trends you see within the veterinary cardiology specialty?
A: One of the trends, in one person's view, is that a lot more work is being done to decipher the underlying cause of heart
Research is exploring the cause for degenerative valve changes or the genetics underlying heart disease in cats. Researchers
are trying to get down to the underlying cause of why diseases occur, as opposed to being focused on just therapeutics or
diagnostics. In the past, there was a lot of emphasis on diagnostic technique and a certain amount of emphasis on therapies.
Underlying causes is the new trend in research.
Q: Any other comments?
A: Today in veterinary medicine, we are fortunate to have many specialists in particular areas — cardiology, oncology, internal
medicine. My only comment is that it's important that people seek advice of specialists trained in their particular area when
looking for diagnostics and therapeutic treatments for a specific type of disease.
It may sound obvious, but cardiologists are best trained to deal with cardiology issues. Neurologists are best equipped to
deal with neurology issues and so on. Needless to say, this guidance is not always followed.
Dr. Lesser earned his DVM degree from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1987. After finishing his residency
at the Animal Medical Center in New York, he assumed a leadership role in clinical cardiology service at AMC until 1991, when
he moved to Southern California. In California, he achieved Diplomate status in the specialty of cardiology.