So all these threads about Cardio problems have me very much on alert and somewhat worried that it could strike us next. I have a few questions that I was hoping someone would answer for me.
First of all, what is the most effective way in diagnosing any cardio problems ahead of time?
On average how much does it cost to do some of these tests? such as a holter?
If it is caught early enough is there really much that can be done to keep them pain free and have a good long life?
My heart goes out to everyone on the board that is currently dealing with this vicious disease that strikes these amazing dog.
The best thing to try to diagnose DCM as early as possible is to do regular echoes and 24 hour holters. These tests look for different things, and you really need them both to get as complete a picture as possible.
The cost of doing an echo can vary by location and whether you can find a cardiac clinic that offers echoes. It runs me about $400 for an echo at the cardiologist I use-although this also includes the office call and a quick ekg. They're known for being expensive, even for this area, tho.
Holters are the same way, the price varies. If you belong to a DPCA chapter club that owns their own Holter, then you can use the club Holter machine for little to nothing. If you can get a group of dobermans together and make a long term commitment, you could join the HOlter project run through Guelph University in Canada-they send you a holter to use, you return it when you're done. I believe that's about $70.
A lot of us have bought our own holter monitors. There's a $500 initial outlay, but it will pay for itself pretty quickly, especially if you have more than one dog.
Yes-it's been proven that early diagnosis and treatment with just enalapril extends lifespan in dogs whose cardiac measurements have changed, indicating occult (Hidden) DcM. There are studies being done right now to find out if PImobendan will slow the progression of the disease-it's used for dogs in chf now, but there may be a use for it before the dog goes into heart failure.
If the dog has an abnormal cardiac rhythm that puts it at risk for sudden death you can put the dog on anti arrthymic drugs. However, it's never really been proven this extends lifespan. That part is theoretical.