New method to treat heart arrhythmia in dogs

heart arrhythmia in dogs

US researchers have developed a new treatment for dogs with a rare, but life-threatening, arrhythmia caused by atrioventricular accessory pathways (APs). 

The minimally invasive technique, which uses radiofrequencies, is modified from a human cardiology procedure and has a more than a 95 per cent success rate in treating dogs with this type of arrhythmia.

The technique, radiofrequency catheter ablation (RFCA), was adapted by Dr Kathy Wright and colleagues at MedVet— and is described in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

“Accessory atrioventricular pathways are one of the more common causes of rapid heart rhythms in young dogs and we were pleased to prove they are curable with radiofrequency catheter ablation,” Dr Wright said. 

“The dogs can then go on to have their hearts recover and be off all heart drugs within a period of three months, and then go on to live normal lives.”

APs are abnormal electrical circuits in the heart that can become activated and overcome the heart’s normal current pathways, severely impairing its ability to pump. RFCA uses radiofrequencies to destroy those rogue circuits and allow the heart’s normal function to resume.

In their study, the team used RFCA to treat 89 dogs with AP-related arrhythmia. While 23 breeds were represented, more than half of the patients were labrador retrievers, as APs are more prevalent in that breed. 

The researchers threaded a catheter into each dog’s heart and then delivered radio waves toward the APs. Each dog was monitored with telemetry for at least 16 hours after the procedure and before they were discharged. 

Within two months, the dogs’ heart activity was measured to determine the procedure’s effectiveness. In all but three dogs, initial treatment with RFCA cured the arrhythmia. The remaining dogs were cured with a second treatment.

Once considered relatively harmless rhythm disturbances, APs are now known to cause rapid heart rhythms that can result in congestive heart failure or sudden death. Symptoms can include extreme fatigue and gastrointestinal distress, including lack of appetite and vomiting.

These symptoms are similar to other common health problems in dogs, making the condition difficult to diagnose. It’s not known how APs are created.

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