Care for the Loving Heart!

Like humans, dogs too suffer from heart diseases. The common cardiac problems are abnormality of heart beats appropriately known as Arrhythmia and other one is cardiomyopathy (a disease of cardiac muscles). Both conditions may lead to heart failure. Here’s more on heart diseases in dogs.

What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy (CM) is the most common cause of heart failure. It is of two types i.e. dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The former one is more common in dogs and later one in cats. DCM is a specific condition characterised by dilated heart chambers with a thin heart muscle and decreased contractility of the heart muscle resulting into decreased ability of the heart to pump blood throughout the body. Other one is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy wherein the walls of the chambers of the heart get thickened leading to a decrease in pumping efficiency.

Which breeds are susceptible?

Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, Deerhounds, Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds and Golden Retrievers are some of the breeds who suffer commonly from cardiomyopathy. Cocker Spaniels and other smaller breeds may also suffer from cardiomyopathy less commonly. Cardiomyopathy has also been observed in German Shepherd, Great Dane and Rottweiler. Signs of distress come suddenly and the disease is generally seen in dogs of 4-10 years of age. However, cardiomyopathy has also been seen in young ones with distemper. Incidence of cardiomyopathy is greater in Doberman Pincher, Great Dane and Rottweiler. While in Boxers, heart enlargement is minimum but arrhythmias are more serious.

How heart works?

The heart of all mammals is made up of four chambers. The upper left and right chambers are called the atria (atrium) and the lower left and right chambers are called the ventricles. Blood flows from the veins of the body into the right atrium. It is stored there briefly as it is pumped on into the right ventricle. The right ventricle pumps blood into the lungs, where it receives oxygen. It then flows from the lungs into the left atrium where it is held briefly before going on to the left ventricle. The left ventricle contains the largest muscle of the heart so it can pump blood out through the arteries to all parts of the body.

What happens when heart fails?

Cardiomyopathy leads to a decrease in pumping efficiency. Development of congestive heart failure is quite dog healthcommon in dilated cardiomyopathy. As the failing heart enlarges, the left side loses its ability to contract forcefully to pump blood through the blood vessels. When this occurs, blood begins to pool in the right side of the heart, which supplies blood to the lungs for oxygenation and receives spent blood from the thorax and abdomen. Sometimes the damage is more apparent on the right side of the heart first, sometimes on the left. But, eventually, both sides are affected because one relies on the other. The dog’s heart works hard to compensate for these changes but eventually pet can no longer perform the activities as he has been doing in the past. This stage of the disease is called congestive heart failure. In congestive heart failure, the heart is no longer able to provide blood with adequate oxygen to supply the body. Without adequate oxygen, the body’s cells become desperate and trigger a series of responses. Various hormones are released by several organs in an attempt to correct the problem. These hormones conserve and retain fluids in an effort to increase blood volume and the output of blood. For several months, these compensatory responses help the situation. However, increased fluid retention eventually becomes harmful. More and more fluid leaks out of the capillaries, causing increased gagging and coughing, and reduced stamina. Fluid in the lungs causes pulmonary edema, fluid below the skin leads to peripheral or limb edema, and fluid in the abdomen results into ascites. Peripheral or limb edema is much less common in dogs.

What are the causes of heart failure?

Although cause of cardiomyopathy in dogs is generally unknown, deficiency of myocardial carnitine concentration in some dogs with cardiomyopathy has been observed and supplementation of L-carnitine in these dogs has improved their clinical condition. Dogs may suffer from dilated cardiomyopathy as a sequel of parvo myocarditis or distemper myocarditis in unvaccinated dogs. Other causes of myopathy include ischaemia, hypoxia, atherosclerotic intramural coronary artery infarction, toxins, and drugs like doxorubicin, immune mediated diseases, ehrlichiosis, or babesiosis. Hypothyroidism (deficiency of thyroid hormone) has also been associated with the development of cardiomyopathy in dogs.

What are the signs of heart failure?

Early signs may include fainting, exercise intolerance, weight loss or lethargy. Many dogs remain asymptomatic, and may suddenly have symptoms associated with congestive heart failure. Signs associated with heart failure include respiratory distress (left heart failure), or abdominal distention –ascites (fluid build-up associated with right heart failure). The onset of symptoms may be extremely rapid. It is not uncommon for dogs to have a history of a few days illness. Dogs in the later stages of congestive heart failure become much less active and tire easily. Their appetite reduces and they show signs of difficult respiration, panting and coughing even while at rest. Their tummy enlarges and assumes pear-shape owing to fluid accumulates in the liver and abdomen. The colour of the membrane of the mouth may turn grayish rather than healthy pink and blood vessels on the surface are abnormally congested with blood. These dogs often show pulsation in the jugular vein. Murmurs and/or arrhythmia are heard on chest auscultation.

By the time cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure is diagnosed, dogs rarely live beyond a year. The disease is known to run in families so families with this problem should not be bred. Doberman Pinchers develop abnormal electrocardiograms up to four years before they develop clinical signs of heart failure. Many of these dogs die suddenly without warning. Pet parents often think these dogs have been poisoned. Others develop the cough and fluid retention characteristic irregular heart beat. Dilated cardiomyopathy or congestive heart failure develops over many months or even years. As heart function declines, the body is able to compensate for several weeks or months. However, at some point, the body’s ability to compensate is no longer effective. At this point, dogs go into severe heart failure in what appears to be a matter of hours. Rapid, heavy breathing, blue tongue, excessive drooling, or collapse may be the first signs that anything is wrong.

How is cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

Heart failure is often suspected simply on physical examination. Heart sounds in this condition tend to be muffled and the raspy noise of air passing through fluid-filled lungs is often audible. To confirm suspicions, chest X-rays is advised to review the shape of the heart. Distinctive globular shape heart in X-rays is indicative of cardiomyopathy. The normal, chiseled cardiac silhouette is replaced by a much larger, rounded heart shadow. Early in the disease the left side of the heart may be more enlarged than the right but with time both the left and right sides of the heart enlarge. In Boxers, rhythm irregularities (arrhythmias) may be detected even before X-rays show abnormal findings. The lungs of dogs with heart failure show more radio-opacity due to fluid accumulation.

Electrocardiogram (EKG) is another diagnostic tool to detect early heart abnormalities before X-ray diagnosis. A fast, out-of-control fibrillation of the atrium is present in most of the dogs of giant breed with cardiomyopathy. In other cases left ventricle enlargement is denoted by broad QRS complex and increased R wave voltage. While, some cases have faster rate with premature contractions of the ventricles. Visualisation of the heart with an echocardiography also gives a good indication of the efficiency of the heart in pumping blood. It measures accurately the size of heart chambers as well as an indication of the degree of heart enlargement.

Blood serum chemistry and urine chemistry tests are of not much utility except assisting to visualise the status of kidney and liver. Recently cardiac troponins are being used to detect cardiomyopathy in dogs.

What is the future of dogs with cardiomyopathy?

Unfortunately, pets with cardiomyopathy do not live long. Medication can prolong the lives of the pets for a while and can improve the quality of the life. Big breeds with the severe form may only live a few weeks from the time the problem is noticed. A few dogs have survived for about 18-20 months with continuous therapy and monitoring under specialist care. Treatment of cardiac problems should only be undertaken under the advice of a veterinary medical specialist.

(At Nandini Veterinary Hospital, Surat, Prof Dr JP Varshney, MVSc, PhD (Medicine), Retired Professor, is currently engaged as Senior Consultant (Medicine); Dr PS Chaudhary, MVSc (Surgery) is working as a Senior Surgeon; Dr VV Deshmukh, MVSc (Pathology) is working as a Veterinary Pathologist; and Dr Rutuparna U. Ambegaonkargupte is a PG Scholar (Veterinary Medicine) pursuing her research on the impact of canine babesiosis on the heart.)

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog loving all the way!

Happy, jovial and loving – a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (GSMD) craves attention and human company. But, this is not the breed for everyone as they need a master with strong leadership skills. If you have the skills to handle him, bingo…you have an ideal family pet.

Perhaps the most striking aspect about the GSMDs is their size and beautiful three-colour coat. But, beforebreed profile you bring home a GSMD, think do you have enough time to bring him up, do you have enough place for dog weighing 60 kg and as high as 72 cm, and this shepherd dog be with his herd (family). You should not isolate these dogs from the family as they need to be near human all the time.

Strong and handsome…

GSMDs have a strong and proportional body. Their skull is flat and broad with a slight stop. The backskull and muzzle are approximately equal in length. The muzzle is large, blunt and straight, and most often has a slight rise before the end. His eyes are almond shaped and may vary in colour from hazel to chestnut, medium-sized, and neither deep set nor protruding. His medium-sized ears are set high, triangular in shape, gently rounded at the tip and hang close to the head when relaxed. When alert, the ears are brought forward and raised at the base. His tail is thicker at the base, tapering to a point as it reaches the hocks and is carried down in repose. But, when alert and in movement, the tail may be carried higher and curved slightly upward; it should not curl over the back.

Their topcoat is black, with markings in rich rust and white. Their average height is 60-72 cm and weight is around 59-61 kg.

Intelligent GSMDs…

They are intelligent and familiar. Since they are shepherd dogs, they are close to their guide and territory. They have amazing quality to converge with good people and they can be used in dog therapy. They love to be near humans, they learn easily, but not always get through commands. It happens that they are independent and timorous.

They like children but you should not leave them alone with children. Sometimes GSMD doesn’t realize his size and can unintentionally hurt. They give everyone the incentive to play biting nipping, which is a shepherd dog’s quality. It isn’t aggressive, but it is good when you teach your dog that it is undesirable behaviour.

Life with them…

GSMDs have moderate temperament; they are caring and sociable. They do well in low temperatures. They are friendly to other animals but may sometimes be bolshie and disobedient. They need to be trained, right from puppyhood to be obedient. GSMDs are very intelligent and positive training brings effects quickly. They are really gourmands; they love to eat. So, it is the responsibility of the pet parent to feed him a well-balanced diet in the right quantity.

Puppy care…

During the time of growing, till the age of 18 months, their joints should not be overstrained with strong move or weight. Let the puppy move as much as he wants. Puppy grows very fast till the 5th month and gets heavier, even two kg weekly. They need to be fed with high-protein diet, containing Glucosamine and Chondroitin to make their joints stronger. During the next two years, the dog still grows, not as fast as earlier but systematically and gains muscles till the 4th year. Feed them a high quality, balanced diet, specific to their age and breed. Puppy shouldn’t be made to walk long distances and up and down the stairs.

Grooming care…

They have short coat with undercoat and don’t need special treatment. Brushing during moulting twice a year (spring and autumn) is enough. Use a furminator for brushing undercoat.

Exercise and play…

Adult Great Swiss Mountain Dogs can be trained for agility; you can even give him truck to pull and jog. But they shouldn’t run next to a bicycle as they aren’t sprinters. They like pulling cloth or cord, pursuits, etc. However, they don’t like swimming and retrieving.


GSMD suffers from eyes genetic diseases, epilepsy and just like other giant breed dogs they have problems with dysplasia hip joints, elbow joints and shoulder joints.

In all, a GSMD is an ideal family pet who thrives on love and attention…in fact a small price for the unconditional love and companionship they provide!

(Magdalena Miloszewska-Scislek is a breeder of Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and runs a professional kennel (Caveat Actor, Polska). She also provides a dog hotel to help people while they are travelling or are unable to take care of their dogs.)

Toast to our loving buddies…

This new year, let’s give a toast to some pooch-stories being told and the millions Editorialexperienced, shared, loved and remembered…we love you all – big or small, black, white, brown, grey etc, pedigreed, mixed or stray.

For people who have not been blessed with dog might feel that all dogs are same. But we all know, how wrong this statement is. Each pooch is an individual – different from the rest, having his own personality and quirks. But yes, they all are same in some respects – love, care and loyalty. Pick up the story of Marley & Me which is an emotional and loving tale of an havoc creating, boisterous and certified un-trainable yellow Labrador. Despite all odds, Marley was loved by the family and his death was a major blow to them.

Then, there’s the tale of loyalty of ‘Hachiko’ who waited for his human friend-the deceased professor for nine years at the train station. He would escape his current caretakers and come back to the station to wait. Many people started noticing this faithful Akita and gave him food. In 1934, at Shibuya Station in Tokyo, a monument was erected for his unending love– finally Hachiko died in March 1935. There are many, many more such real-life incidences. And all dog lovers would agree that these are not just stories, we all have stories or anecdotes of their love and loyalty engraved deep in our hearts.

If we can show an iota of love and shining sincerity like our canine buddies- what a wonderful world this will be! Let us all strive our best to make this world a better place to live – not just for us but for our canines as well. The efforts have already begun, but still there’s a long way to go. Every small deed counts – take care of the strays while you drive, give them food or shelter in the chilling cold, get them vaccinated and/or neutered – the list is endless.

Sparkle gives a big woof to a joyous New Year to all pet parents and their buddies. A Sparkling Year to all!!!

Loving Kia… truly… madly… deeply

pawtails2Kia – my darling angel, is the love of my life. She is a wonderdog… I could not ask for a better dog. My l’il four-legged friend has given me so many reasons to cherish. She loves to romp endlessly. She enjoys playing with ball… and jogs like a pawfect fitness freak. What else my sporty buddy likes is swimming…she can play with water endlessly.

She is my true companion; we love to roam together on my scooter. Kia is a true friend and my loving child too. Kia is great…she is our dear darling.

Loving Ladli

‘Death is sure to every born’, but the pain of losing one’s dearest is immense, for me losing Ladli – an English Mastiff was the same. It was 18th January 2006, Wednesday, when my one-and-a-half-year old angel – Ladli departed, to an unknown abode forever.
Ladli, a fun loving kid, came to us in May 2004, just 68-days-old; she filled our lives with laughter and joy, within a few moments of her arrival at Chatterjee Villa.
Since childhood I was charmed by English Mastiff’s demenour, gait, and sound physical fitness. And the long yearning to pet EM finally got over with the arrival of my angel – Ladli. Love, ineffable affinity and proper care helped her grow mentally and physically, and in about 7-months’ time, she gained 60 kgs weight. As one of the contenders in dog show, organised by North Calcutta Kennel Club and Burnpur Kennel Club, my beloved Ladli won several prizes.
We all were one happy family, playing together, going out for morning walks and having loads of fun, until one dreadful day – 15th Jan, when she came limping to me.  All the medications and treatments failed to save her and three days later, she bade final goodbye to all of us while resting on my lap.
Her arrival to this harsh and relative world of stark realities and departure to eternity in such a short span will remain a living memory for all of us. Let LADLI’s soul remain in peace. In the remembrance of Ladli I would like to reiterate a saying…
“The old man’s guardian and the young man’s friend;
Dog is the only creature faithful to the end.”
– Prasanjit Chatterjee

“Paw-Tales” l July-Aug 2006

Ginger – a Friend, Partner, a defender…
Pets are wonderful companions and dogs are the best. He is friendly, confident and a faithful comrade. My pet, Ginger, a golden Labrador is a loving, playful dog, true to
his Lab characteristics; he is affectionate and hates to stay alone.
When I come back from school, he greets me with total exuberance. He jumps up and if I am not careful – I can be floored!! His eyes are very expressive and if we don’t give him the desired biscuit, he simply sulks.
The most comical antic of his is when he chases lizards and birds. I only have to say “Lizzi Bizzi” and he goes berserk. He barks and jumps and tries to catch the
lizard, and when he cannot reach it, he reacts comically. His antics always leave us in splits of laughter. He is  a great companion and we all love Ginger.
– Vrinda

I’m loving it!

Worldwide, pet owners are willing to spend more to satisfy their pets and bring them joy, as they are a part of their life. Treats form a major part of their spending as we all know that our dogs simply love them.
Delight their taste buds
Alike humans, dogs also need and love the occasional delicious helpings in the form of treats. These treats can be anything ranging from readymade treats in various sizes and flavours to home-made ones. Though we do not suggest you to overindulge your pet with treats, but an occasional splurge is not harmful.
Importance of treats
Treats not only delight your dog but they can be used for positive reinforcement dog training as well. They can be used as rewards for good behaviour and form a nice way to bond with your dog. Kong toys filled with treats can be used to keep your dog busy and mentally stimulate him. Besides, many treats are even healthy for your dog. For example, some treats can control plaque and tartar in dogs.
Count the calories
The obvious mantra for healthy and fit body is to count the calories of what you eat and the same principle applies to our dog as well. Obesity can cause health problems like arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. It is advisable to use low-calorie dog treats. Another way is to break larger treats into smaller portions and give one portion at one time.
Also, do not feed table scraps to your dog as they may be high in calories and low in vitamins and nutrients. It will also encourage your dog to beg.
Treat for a purpose
Make the treating occasion special, use treats as a reward.
Tips for feeding treats

  • Do not feed the treat just before meals.
  • Treats should not form more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet.
  • Do not supplement treats for your core dog food.
  • Break up large-size treats in smaller portions to make them last longer.
  • If your dog is on a special prescription diet, consult your vet first.
  • Always buy treats made with natural ingredients.
  • Use treats formulated with supplements like glucosamine which can help maintain joint health andeven relieve symptoms of arthritis.
  • If your dog is allergic to certain foods, ensure that  these ingredients are not there in the treats.

Different kinds of treats
There are many international and national brands available in the market, in different types, styles and sizes.
International treats
Dental treats
Treats that reduce plaque
and tartar, freshen breath and clean teeth.
Dried natural snacks
Gravy or sauces
Pourable liquids in different flavours like chicken, beef or bacon.
Ice-creams or frozen treats
Similar to human frozen deserts, available in cups or push-up pops.
Made into bacon-like ribbon in many protein types, flavours and lengths.
Similar to corn puffs, available in various shapes and flavours.
Iced or glazed biscuits
Biscuits coated with icing
or glazes.
Cuts of meat
Soft moist pieces in the shape of meat-cuts.
Sugary candies with lots
of digest to promote high palatability.
Soft moist chews with high levels of glucosamine or chondrotin to support joint health.
With high fibre content to increase satiety.
Booda Velvet Chews
Healthy corn-starch-based bones.
Rawhide dogchews and chewing bones
Bones and natural chews
for teething.
Kong Stuff’N treats
Designed for stuffing Kong toys.
Pup Corn Treats
Crunchy low-fat snack in humorous doggy shapes.
Chicken Tenders
Roasted 100% natural chicken breast fillets.
Crunchy Treats
Healthy morsels of assorted chicken, beef or salmon flavours, wrapped in a crunchy outer shell of wheat.
Freeze-dried Liver Snax
Yummy treat prepared from fresh whole liver.
Chip Cookies
Natural rawhide chips, which will water your canine’s mouth.
Canine Cuisine Cookies
Delicious cookies for all dogs.
Treats available in India
Denta Stix and Schmackos
Super Dog
Rawhides in all shapes and sizes ranging from balls, shoes, salami slices, kebab, kebab rolls, normal rolls with fillings of chicken, etc.
Energy Bar
An energy-giving snack
Breath and tartar control treats, which contains mint and eucalyptus. Natural breath freshener.
Bow Wow
Sticks in different flavours like chicken and cheese.
Dental treats which can remove plaque and tartar.
Pnutz and Nut R Nipz
They are both peanut flavour dog treats.
Hip Chips
They are available in smoky cheddar and bacon flavours.
Roberts & Thompson
Natural raw bones for adult dogs and are free of preservatives.
Total Big Beef
One of the few beef flavoured snack in India, with a soft texture and unique shape.
Chicken, beef and natural flavour treats.
Lamb Snack
Tartar control snack.
2nd wind large energy snack
An energy bar.
Rawhides and flavoured treats in chicken, mutton and eggs available in different shape and sizes. Also available mutton flavour munchies bone, bow shaped bone, smoked pork chips and ball shaped treats filled with raw bone powder.
Jerry’s Natural Health Treats
Nutritious liver treats with vitamins.
Sleepy Strap
Bacon, liver, beef and
chicken treats.
Jer High
Hot dogs in chicken flavour.
Rawhides to pamper canines.
Doggy Fun
Natural Cuisine Tartar Treats.
Asian Diet Products
Choostixs in a variety of flavours like chicken, beef, natural, parsley, spearmint, etc. Other treats like tripes, and chicken filled natural bones also offered.
One Earth Dog Treats
Biscuits made with all natural premium ingredients, proteins, vitamins and minerals, in three flavours: honey molasses, brewers yeast and garlic and peanut butter.
Yogies Dog Treats
Fun and tasty treats in peanut butter and French vanilla flavours.
Healthy Dog Treats
Faithful Famous’ dog biscuits and snacks, available in veg and non-veg flavours. Also offered Cocktail non-veg dog biscuits and stick rolls for tartar control, in original chicken.
Glenands, Crunch, Kart, Naughty
Dog biscuits in variety of range and flavours.
An anytime snax
8 in 1 Dental health mints.
Source : Petland (Defence Colony, New Delhi), Windsor (Khan Market, New Delhi) and KPS My Pet Shop (Mumbai).