Holter and Echo - Doberman Forum : Doberman Breed Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 05:43 PM Thread Starter
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Holter and Echo

I know this has probably been asked a million times, and I have looked back at some past posts regarding DCM and testing, but I still don't feel like I understand. Please forgive me if I sound ignorant.

A friend of a friend of mine on Facebook posted a picture of her doberman with a vest on and said that getting yearly holters are important. I know I've seen many people mention holters and echos when talking about DCM here. I know that DCM is a heart problem that...can't be fixed(?) and that it's prevalent in dobermans.

Are holters and echos two different tests, or is the vest thing one test and the other is a separate one? At what age should I start testing Zeus? He's 2 and will be 3 in October. Is this something I should have already been doing?

Are these tests (or singular test, depending) something that's done at a regular vet's office, or would I need to find a specialty clinic for it? How often should it be done?

Thank you for your time!
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 06:01 PM
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A holter is a test that gives a reading of the dog's activity for 24hrs.. The dog wears the vest and at the end of the time period the info is sent to be read. The echo that you asked about is a test that is performed while the dog is on its side and calm. The cardiologist can see the heart size and shape and it is immediate. You can also get an ekg done at the same visit. Since the cost of these tests is pricey some owners have purchased the holter and then merely send the test info into somewhere like Alba. It can also cost less if you can get into a cardio clinic that a local dobe club will sponsor. These tests will let you know if dcm has started well before signs show up. You can then get your dog on meds to help with quality of life. The meds can extend quality time for several years sometimes. Since dobes have a greater chance of getting dcm than not it is something to consider about early and yearly testing.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 06:17 PM Thread Starter
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Erp, I realized I mistyped and meant to ask if holters and echos were one test. I'm glad you understood what I meant! Thank you for the info @VZ-Doberman
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 06:37 PM
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Hi gamermouse. The holter monitor test and the echo are two different tests, both meant to measure different aspects of heart health and function.

The Holter monitor test is like an EKG that is run for a minimum of 24 hours. Hence the vest, designed to protect the electrodes and keep the portable machine strapped to the dog. Some people will run the test for 48 hours and even up to 7 days. Holters can be done at home and submitted directly to Alba medical the company that makes them, for a report from a cardiologist. A holter can be fitted at a vet's office or usually rented from a local breed club (Dobermans and Boxers being the most common) or individual holter owners (a few breeders have them)

The Echocardiogram is imagery of the heart. It helps to measure heart size, and certain aspects of heart function (like contraction, pumping of the blood etc.) as well as detect malformations, leaks and other abnormalities. The echo is usually what will help confirm or determine a diagnosis of any issue. This is performed by a veterinary cardiologist.

Both tests should be performed once a year and I usually recommend to start sometime around the ages of 2-3 so your by is right in the age range to begin.

Indeed at this point in time there is no cure for genetic/inherited DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) however doing yearly echo/holter tests help detect anything amiss with the heart and early diagnosis improves the prognosis and chances of longevity with the right medication/food/exercise regimen.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 07:46 PM
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Thanks Artemis--good discription of what and what for on the two tests.

I lost my first Doberman who was whelped in 1959 at a time when not much about cardio in the Doberman was really known. People who found out about it back then almost always found out because their dog died suddenly--often in front of them.

Kind of because of that first Dobe who was actually euthanized because of CHF which finally stopped responding to the only then available med (lasix).

But time went on and diagnostics got better and meds got better and for the last 20 plus years I've been routinely testing my dogs for cardio--starting between 2 and 3. I'm very lucky that the Mt Hood Doberman Pinscher Club has had one of the very earliest programs for renting holter vests and hold twice yearly health clinics which include echo's and holters. Some of my dogs have been on meds as indicated by things that showed up either on the Holter or on the echo itself.

Getting early diagnises makes a lot of difference when it comes to treating for cardio in the Doberman.

Gamer Mouse--New Mexico doesn't have a chapter club but Arizona does and you might want to contact Victoria Hall--she was very helpful to several of us when vWD testing was new and she set up clinics to get enough dogs to get a break from the only place that was doing those test (VetGen) many years ago. Victoria is Vicaral Dobermans and her e'mail address is [email protected]

If you can find a breed club that does a health day it's much less expensive than going to a vet cardiologist.

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 08:24 PM
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Ha ha... the people at the cardiologist office looked at me like I had two heads when I mentioned I felt like a Doberman Pinscher because I was getting a holter and echo.

While testing has gotten more common, just twenty-ish years ago, my regular vet never even mentioned a holter test when x-rays showed that Gin, my Doberman cross, had an enlarged heart at age 11. She was on enalapril for the last four years of her life.


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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 09:50 PM
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Yeah, my doctor looked at me like I was crazy when he wanted me to get a 24 hour holter, and I said I knew all about it because my dog had had a couple done. Only my arrhythmia turned out to be a medication I was taking, so at least all I had to do was STOP taking it.

I think the first dobe I had with heart trouble was diagnosed with a 10 minute EKG. Seems to me maybe the vet had picked up something questionable with just her yearly exam, but she was basically asymptomatic at that point. So he did a short EKG and confirmed an arrhythmia. He had also just gotten a sonogram machine of his very own, and he did one of those on her for free because he wanted to test it out and get more experience on the thing. Seems to me I remember he had someone coming in to run him through the process, and he was delighted (well, kinda) that he could provide the dog for the test. Her heart hadn't enlarged yet, though, and she lived another 2 years on meds (with no real symptoms until her last week), so I guess we caught it reasonably early.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-11-2020, 10:07 AM Thread Starter
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@dobebug We are actually moving back to Texas this weekend! Seems like we just got here, but I'm not complaining, lol. Texas=Home. From what I searched, it looks like there are chapter clubs in Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin (which I'd be closest to, about an hour away). So I may have to contact someone in Austin and bombard them with questions and hopefully they'll help me get something set up.

@Artemis Thank you for the thorough answer! I honestly don't know what I'd do without this group. I definitely want my baby boy to have a long and healthy life and want to make sure I'm doing everything possible to make that happen.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-11-2020, 10:20 AM
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As others have said, two different tests.

What I wanted to add is that the reason you need to do both is that Dobermans can end up diagnosed with DCM when one of the tests show an abnormality when the other test came back normal. This is why it's important that Dobermans get BOTH an echo AND a 24 hour holter yearly. In fact, I know of Dobermans with diagnosed DCM who will continue to have one of the tests look normal, while the other will be abnormal. The Doberman breed is really unique when it comes to the heart, and having a good cardiologist who understands that our breed has different measurements when it comes to this testing is really, really important.

It's pretty easy to learn how to do the 24 hour holtering yourself. I do often recommend that your very first time of having any testing done that I find it worth it to spend the money to work with a cardiologist to establish a relationship so that you can work with them going forward, if you can. That's just my opinion, and I'd always rather people get testing than not, so if you need to do an echo clinic and rent a holter and do it yourself, do that.


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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-11-2020, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by gamermouse0213 View Post
@dobebug We are actually moving back to Texas this weekend! Seems like we just got here, but I'm not complaining, lol. Texas=Home. From what I searched, it looks like there are chapter clubs in Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin (which I'd be closest to, about an hour away). So I may have to contact someone in Austin and bombard them with questions and hopefully they'll help me get something set up.
Houston also has a club.


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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-11-2020, 10:50 AM
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Yeah--the health clinics that Mt Hood DPC has twice yearly are done by a vet cardiologist--man, we are so lucky here in Portland--we have 5 (can you believe that) pretty local cardiologists. Two of them are those we use or have used for clinics. Another one is part of a specialty group, as is the fourth one. And the last is part of the teaching staff of the vet school at Oregon State University.

The club has two digital holter units and several of the really good vests and a local vet tech who is the Alba rep will put them on for you (by appointment) let you watch and a friend of mine and jointly bought a refurbished first generation digital monitor when between the two of us we had 7 Dobes being holtered at least once a year--she had a bitch that was being holtered every two months and that way we didn't have to go to the other side of Portland to pick up and return the unit--she sent the readout to Alba and they send back a print out for a nominal fee.

I'd bet that at least one of those clubs has something like the Mt Hood health day with an echo offered and the Austin club should be able to verify that. Also if you can't find a Dobe Club that does one start checking the Boxer chapter clubs--they have cardio problems too and were some of the first that put together testing for reduced rate by a club.

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