View Full Version : Veterinarian-- general practitioner or cardiologist?

27th December 2006, 02:03 PM
Hi everyone... I am preparing to be a Cavalier owner in just a few weeks and am trying to get everything lined up.

My question is-- is it better to have the first veterinary visit be to a general veterinarian (who also happens to be closer to home) or to a veterinary cardiologist? I have read that it is important to have both for a Cavalier, but I'm not sure who I should make the first checkup appointment with.

I'd really appreciate your feedback...


27th December 2006, 06:24 PM
I would say go to a regular vet first, cardiologists are great for cardiology, that's their focus, regular vets are experienced in general practice, and for a first check up, that would be the logical choice where the puppy can be examined for general health. If there's no reason to suspect any heart problem, there probably isn't any reason to go to a cardiologist.

MVD, the all too common heart disease of Cavaliers, including young adult cavaliers, evolves over time as the heart valve weakens and deteriorates, and is not the kind of thing that would be symptomatic in a young puppy. That would be unusual.

It's not uncommon for a murmur to be heard in a young puppy, but most often these are harmless and temporary (called "flow murmurs"), not a sign of heart disease. They disappear by 6 months usually.

Having said that, i wonder what age it's recommended to start heart testing on pet cavaliers, as a yearly screening test. Maybe someone can say something about that? Next year there will be a breed club sponsored heart clinic in my area and i'm planning to have Zack examined. He will be about a year and a half old then.

Perhaps it would be useful to take your puppy to be screened, but from the conversations I've followed on this forum, i haven't heard of people having their pets examined by a cardiologist as puppies, unless there is a questionable symptom.

The main one i remember is LauraD having taken Riley because he had a harmless flow murmur, and a cardiologist is best qualified to assess and diagnose murmurs and any heart symptoms. That was the first i had heard about this condition (harmless flow murmur).

PS I'm assuming you're getting a puppy. If you're getting an older cavalier, especially if you don't have much info on the health history, a cardiologist exam at this time could be a good idea, but i'd still suggest seeing a regular vet first, for general health.

27th December 2006, 06:57 PM
A vet will be your first and probably only stop for at least a year or two. :) There's no point in taking a puppy to a cardiologist unless a vet diagnoses a potentially serious heart problem in a puppy. This is EXTREMELY rare and you would be very unlikely to have to worry about this. :)

The key reason you will want to eventually see a cardiologist is to check for murmurs. Mitral valve disease, or MVD -- which causes heart murmurs and sometimes eventually, heart failure -- is a progressive disease and most cavaliers would be very unlikely to have a murmur, EVEN in a case of very early onset MVD, until age two or older. Vets will always check for murmurs at a visit as well -- but most vets are not very good at detecting early murmurs or at giving murmurs the correct grade (some are but they are a minority). Many cavalier owners like to visit a cardiologist once a year or so to monitor their dog's heart. Often this can be done at low cost clinics sponsored by local or regional cavalier clubs, which anyone can attend. Check with your regional club for more information.

Puppies very rarely will have a murmur, or seem to have one. In almost all cases, these are actually 'puppy flow murmurs' and go away by the time the puppy is 6 months old and are harmless.

There's lots of info on MVD in the 'Health' section of the Library section of this board.

27th December 2006, 07:19 PM
karlin, to your knowledge, is this a situation where it is of any use to have a baseline observation in a young asymptomatic dog (like zack at 18 months when there's a low cost clinic next year) which would be helpful for comparing with later observations, or would an early (at 18 months) observation not be relevant to later observations later in life?

28th December 2006, 05:53 AM
By 18 months you could do a cardio exam if you want. Some people take a dog at age 1 and if there's a low cost clinic that's convenient, why not. I don;t know if I'd really consider an exam as a 'baseline' as a cardio will either hear a murmur or not. Most likely not if the dog is younger than 2. Some breeders cardio at around 2 to 2.5 on the basis that this is around the time the MVD breeding protocol sets a minimum breeding age for heart clear dogs. Whether you need to take Zack due to his own circumstances is a question for your vet.

For what it is worth I've never had any of mine cardio-certified and the boys are three. We have no low cost clinics and auscultation is vry expensive. If my vets -- who are quite good at hearing and grading murmurs -- picked up a murmur then I'd cardio test definitely. At the moment I am working to set up a low cost clinic for Irish board members and other cavalier owners.

28th December 2006, 09:14 PM
So a murmer heard in a puppy is called a "flow murmer" and isn't anything to be worried about? That's so nice to read, when we took Remi to the vet for the first time the vet mentioned that he heard a small, faint murmer...almost a little squeak. Of course I got super nervous knowing the history of cavs and MVD, so its good to hear that its probably a puppy flow murmer and nothing more. The vet did say not to worry, its a common puppy thing and an actual defect would have sounded much louder and more distinct, but you know moms....we like to worry about our babies. :)

Has this happened to others on the board? Thanks! :flwr:

28th December 2006, 09:29 PM
A couple of folks here have had flow murmurs in puppies. If you search on that topic you'll probably come up with the threads. :)

Also see: http://www.thecavalierclub.co.uk/health/hearts/flow.html

28th December 2006, 10:02 PM
Thanks Karlin! :D

28th December 2006, 10:29 PM
Libby had a murmur. The breeder felt that it was a puppy murmur. Her vet felt the same and our vet did too. She outgrew before 6 months even. They rate them. Libby's was so low that my vet didn't even think she would have heard it, if her papers wouldn't have been marked. We were very worried and the breeder told us we could choose another one, but our hearts were set and we trusted her.

28th December 2006, 10:39 PM
Thanks, it's good to hear when things work out well for others with the same issue. The vet said she would probably outgrow it and it wasn't anything to worry about. He just said we would watch it for the next few months but I couldn't help worrying a little anyway. Our breeder has all of her dogs tested and the pups were checked before leaving so nothing alarming there. Just a nervous 1st time mommy I guess. icon_whistling :roll:

BTW, I love your avatar! My boyfriend and I have a tradition of going to the apple orchard every fall to pick apples and pumpkins to carve for Halloween, and I'm already so excited to bring Remi to the orchard with us. Your avatar just makes me think of all of the fun we are going to have sharing our life with our cavi! :D