Author Archives: hannahS

A stitch in time…


Meet Chilli!

This gorgeous (and very chilled out) boy belongs to a veterinary receptionist. When one of Chilli’s feline family died of heart disease, she decided to get Chilli checked out as well.

Chilli had a loud heart murmur, and so his vets recommended a heart scan. The scan showed that Chilli has very thickened heart muscle – a condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or HCM. HCM is very common in cats, and can cause heart failure, which leads to build-up of fluid in the lungs and/or chest. Heart failure is an end-stage condition and most cats will die within a few months of the onset of signs.

Luckily for Chilli, we found his HCM before he went in to heart failure and we have started him on treatment to try and improve the severity of his condition. At his last check-up he was already looking better and his mum reported no problems.

It’s very common for cats to have heart murmurs, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat has heart disease, but Chilli is a great example of why having a consultation with a cardiologist can be really worthwhile!

We’re looking forward to seeing Chilli again in few months for his check-up – he wins a prize for best behaved puss-cat!

Calling all Great Dane owners!

We need your help to find out more about sudden death and heart disease in Great Danes!

We are conducting a survey of owners of Danes in the UK to find out about their experience with heart disease (specifically DCM) and sudden death, which we believe are very common in the breed. We want to hear from everyone, even if your dogs have always been healthy, so that we can get a good idea of how big the problem is. We really want to hear from all owners, be you a breeder or pet owner. PLEASE take 10 minutes to fill in our survey at the link below:


PLEASE share with all your friends so we can reach as many people as possible. Thanks!

Any questions, just get in touch with Hannah Stephenson via the website or Facebook page. Thank you all in advance!

Closing date for the survey is Monday, May 25th.

Be lungworm aware!

Did you know that dog lungworm (Angiostrongylus) can have effects on the heart? This nasty parasite causes respiratory signs and bleeding problems but it can also increase the blood pressure in the lungs (called pulmonary hypertension). This puts pressure on the right side of the heart and can cause heart failure.
A colleague of mine in North Manchester saw a dog with this problem just yesterday – lungworm is moving steadily northwards!
The great news is that lungworm can be treated, but the best thing is to prevent infection by worming your dog regularly with a product from your vet.


Here’s a picture of Angiostrongylus under the microscopeangiostrongylus

Great news for dog owners!

At this year’s BSAVA congress, Boehringer Ingelheim, the makers of Vetmedin, announced that this drug (pimobendan) is now licensed to treat dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) before the onset of clinical signs. This drug has been proven to prolong the time before the onset of clinical signs in Dobermans with DCM.


What does this mean for me and my dog?

If your dog is diagnosed with DCM, they can usually live a normal life up until the point that they go in to heart failure. Once in heart failure, however, they will usually have problems with breathing, and find exercising difficult, and most dogs die of their condition quite quickly (in weeks to months). Vetmedin can prolong the time before Dobermanns go in to heart failure or die as a result of their DCM, and hopefully this can be extrapolated to other large breeds that develop DCM. This is the first time that a drug has been specifically licensed to treat any heart disease in dogs before the signs of heart failure start.

If you have a dog of a breed predisposed to DCM, it could be well worth getting them checked out, as we can now do something about it!


Wonderful, how do I get hold of some?

Pimobendan is a prescription-only drug. Some heart conditions will not respond to pimobendan, and this drug is also contraindicated in other heart conditions, so it is really important that your dog has a definitive diagnosis from your vet or a cardiologist.


Are you a vet?

Check out this handy algorithm for diagnosing preclinical DCM in first opinion practice!

Vetmed PROTECT Algorithm Final


Have a question about anything in this blog? Why not get in touch at or via our Facebook page (

Good news from bad…

Eddie relaxing at home

Eddie relaxing at home

Meet Eddie, a rather handsome 18 week old Border Collie!

Eddie came to see me this week because his vets had detected a heart murmur when he was a very young puppy. Although Eddie is very active and able to keep up with his mum and dad on walks, his murmur is so loud that you can feel the vibration of the murmur on his chest wall. Puppies can sometimes have murmurs that go away after a few weeks, but Eddie’s vets were very concerned that he had a congenital heart defect (i.e. a heart defect he had been born with).

Eddie had a heart scan, which showed that he has a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA for short). The ductus arteriosus is a vessel that is present when the puppy is still in the womb, which allows blood to bypass the lungs (which are obviously not needed until the puppy is born). Normally, the vessel closes at or soon after birth, but in Eddie’s case something happened to prevent the ductus closing. A PDA allows very fast moving blood to shunt between the great vessels of the heart (the aorta and the pulmonary artery) which puts strain on the heart and also causes the very loud heart murmur.

This picture shows the PDA. On the left is a black and white image showing the PDA entering the pulmonary artery, and on the right is a simultaneous picture using colour to show the jet of abnormal flow coming from the PDA. This jet of fast moving blood causes the loud heart murmur

This picture shows the PDA. On the left is a black and white image showing the PDA entering the pulmonary artery, and on the right is a simultaneous picture using colour to show the jet of abnormal flow coming from the PDA. This jet of fast moving blood causes the loud heart murmur

Dogs with PDAs can develop serious problems with heart function, and the vast majority will develop heart failure before the age of 1 year if they do not receive treatment. The great news for Eddie is that the PDA can be closed surgically, and he is going to have his surgery very soon. Dogs that undergo surgery before going in to heart failure have a very good chance of living a completely normal life after the surgery. We wish Eddie lots of luck for the operation and hopefully we’ll be able to post an update soon!


RCVS Veterinary Specialist

This month the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) council approved Hannah’s application for specialist status, making her an RCVS Specialist in Veterinary Cardiology, in addition to her European Specialist status.
The RCVS says the following about specialist status:
‘RCVS Recognised Specialist status is not easily achieved. To be included on the List of Recognised Specialists, and individual must have achieved a postgraduate qualification at least at Diploma level, and must additionally satisfy the RCVS that they make an active contribution to their speciality, have national and international acclaim and publish widely in their field.
A Recognised Specialist must also be available for referral by other veterinary surgeons.’
For more information about specialist status, visit the RCVS website

Breed Health Awards

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the Karlton Index Breed Health Awards which were supported by the Kennel Club and took place at Discover Dogs in Earls Court. The day was a chance to recognise the incredible work of a number of breed clubs in promoting and improving the health of their dogs. Winning breeds included Dacshunds, Irish Wolfhounds, Lancashire Heelers, French Bulldogs and Bloodhounds. These breeds, and many others that didn’t win an award have been working really hard in the last couple of years to implement health strategies and make health a top priority for them. I presented the award for communication and engagement in breed health, which went to the Lancashire Heeler Community website at Well done to all the winners – a fantastic achievement!

A television appearance

Last week I appeared in the first episode of Ben Fogle’s Animal Clinic on Channel 5. This was filmed while I was working at the University of Liverpool. Check out the link below to watch the story of Norah, the bearded collie. Norah was a really unusual case but the great news is that she is still doing well at home. An amazing story

Ben Fogle’s Animal Clinic
Episode 1
Ben Fogle goes behind the scenes of the University of Liverpool’s Leahurst campus, home to one of the UK’s top veterinary colleges.