Heart Testing our Whippets …….why and how ….a few myths dispelled and aims clarified
The main aim of heart testing is to gather data as well as screening breeding stock
Any Heart Testing MUST be done by a Cardiologist, preferably one used to sighthound athletic hearts, a listen by a GP Vet has little value and can lead to erroneous diagnosis.
A diagnosis of a Heart Murmur only tells you the heart is making an abnormal sound , it doesn,t tell you why, for a definitive diagnosis of whether actual disease is present a Doppler examination of the heart is the only way to glean this information.
Heart Murmurs in whippets are fairly common as became apparent in the two health surveys whippets have taken part in . One by the KC in 2004 and one by the Breed Council in 2012
Whippets often have what’s known as a flow murmur or athletic murmur which is benign and doesnt mean the heart itself is abnormal. Unfortunately if your whippet has a murmur the only way it can be cleared of actual disease is to have a Doppler test
There are certainly documented cases of significant Heart Disease and early deaths in whippets in the UK, and in the USA data collection and testing has been the norm for many years .
What we don’t know is the nature and progression of these murmurs, neither do we know if heart disease in whippets is more common than in other breeds, or if the onset of clinical signs that affect quality of life begin earlier than in other breeds . All animals will have degeneration of organs as they age so a whippet with heart disease at 12 or 13 isn’t anything abnormal, however a whippet with a serious heart condition age 7 or 8 is certainly cause for concern. Congenital ( born with) heart problems such as valve disorders ,Aortic Stenosis, septal defects or PDA, are just a few of the serious conditions that will result in early death.
Which dogs to test
First of all testing any whippet over 12 months of age is useful
Testing potential breeding stock prevents animals with heart defects found at a young age from being used in a breeding programme .
Testing older animals is most useful for data collection, especially if they are tested more than once.
A whippet showing a slight murmur at age 2 if tested again at age 5 will show if the murmur has progressed to significant disease or it may show no change . This is the information that’s vital to understanding heart health in the breed as a whole. A whippet may have a loud murmur but may show no symptoms and may die at 12 from something unrelated or it may have a low grade murmur which becomes symptomatic at an early age
Only testing young animals and screening for breeding, whilst a good thing, doesnt really give any picture of heart health in the breed as a whole ( it may be great to sell puppies) but for those truly concerned about the breed’s welfare it’s a broader selection of ages that will give the best picture
So any Clubs hosting a testing day for the breed a substantial discount for any dogs tested above the age of 5 should be the way forward.
Collating the data
If Breeders test their dogs privately and don’t pass the information forward, although this is an initiative that shows a caring responsible breeder it doesnt help towards building a picture of heart health in the breed .
We are so fortunate in whippets that Mr Mike Holgate BVetMed CertVC MRCVS who carried out testing at two of our Clubs has kindly agreed to collate the data. This is a massive step forward as not only is Mike on the Board of Cardiologists but has a great affection for whippets and their owners.
Any information Mike receives whether from a Club organised testing day or sent to him from a private testing is STRICTLY confidential and the names of the dogs tested will NOT be shared with ANYONE apart from Cardiologists of the Veterinary Cardiovascular Society.
If you have a heart tested dog or a dog diagnosed by a Cardiologist with a specific disease please forward your test results (Blue part of the Certificate) or Vet’s Report to Mike.
Any dogs tested that have subsequently been Doppler or Echo tested please send these results to Mike.
Mike is happy to accept scanned documents providing the whole document is scanned and clear
Email ………[email protected]
Or post to……
Mr M Holgate BVetMed CertVC MRCVS