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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 16923
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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My young springer spaniel seems to get out of breath quickly

Resolved Question:

My young springer spaniel seems to get out of breath quickly - is she OK?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I understand that you are concerned because your young Springer appears to get winded easily with exercise compared to other dogs.In short whenever a dogs seems noticeably different from their littermates or other dogs their age then I believe it is worth looking into.Does your girl seem small for her age compared to her peers?Are her littermates healthy? You may or may not know this, but you may wish to call the breeder and ask if there have been any similar reports in her littermates.There are some heart defects that dogs can be born with that affect their ability to exercise, some breeds tend to have some defects more frequently than the general dog population. In Springers we do see an increased incidence of ventricular septal defects.Ventricular septal defect is an opening in the wall between the left and right ventricles, which are the lower chambers of the heart. They can range widely in size and effects on blood circulation. They can occur alone or with other abnormalities of the heart and are present at birth.Shunting of blood from the left ventricle into the right ventricle is the most common result of this defect, because the left side of the heart has higher pressures. Once the blood is shunted back into the right ventricle it is recirculated through the blood vessels in the lungs and left heart chambers, which causes excess work and over time enlargement of these structures. The right ventricle may enlarge as well because it is working so hard. Over time the increased amount of shunting through the pulmonary arteries can cause narrowing of these vessels, leading to reduced blood flow or increased blood pressure. As resistance rises, the shunt may reverse (that is, become a right-to-left shunt).Signs depend on how severe the defect is as well as direction of the shunt. A small defect usually causes minimal or no signs. Larger defects may result in severe left-sided congestive heart failure.Once the pup develops a right-to-left shunt he or she will have a bluish tinge to the gums and tongue, fatigue, and exercise intolerance. Most affected animals have a loud murmur, but this murmur is absent or faint when a very large defect is present or when shunting is right to left. Chest x‑rays, echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart), and dye studies may be used to confirm the defect.Treatment depends on the severity of signs and direction of the shunt.Dogs with small defects do not typically require treatment and the outlook is good.Dogs with a moderate to severe defect more commonly develop signs, and treatment should be considered.Surgery to close the defect or decrease shunting or drugs to reduce blood pressure may be considered in the treatment of dogs with a large ventricular septal defect and left-to-right shunting.With right-to-left shunting, surgical closure of the defect is generally not advised. Bloodletting to relieve the effects of increased red blood cells or the use of certain drugs may be considered to relieve signs but long term the outlook for the dogs is poor to guarded. Dogs with a ventricular septal defect should not be bred. There are other defects that dogs can have too that can affect exercise tolerance. But given her breed it makes sense to look for a ventricular septal defect.Please let me know if you have any further questions.
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I don't know how she compares to other dogs and have very little experience of other dogs. She loves to exercise and will race around the garden all day after a ball but when doing, will lie down and pant heavily from time to time and is moreoften very lethargic and off her food in the days after heavy exercise. She is I believe large for her breed.
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.
Thanks, ***** ***** this isn't heart related as much as it may be discomfort due to joint disease, including "growing pains" in young dogs, dysplasia of the hips or elbows or cartilage defects in the joints (called OCD's). Panting can indicate low oxygen levels, but can also indicate pain.I would recommend that she see her veterinarian to listen closely to her heart, check her gum color and her heart again after exercise, and look her musculoskeletal system.