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German Shepherd Heart Defects | Canine Pulmonic Stenosis | Pulmonic Stenosis in Dogs | Pulmonary Stenosis | PS

A congenital illness, pulmonic stenosis is one of the three most common heart defects in dogs. Pulmonic stenosis occurs when the tract between the right ventricle of the heart and the pulmonary artery begins to narrow – often a result of improper development of the pulmonic valve. When the tract narrows, the pressure in the right ventricle builds up, causing a gradual and harmful thickening of the muscle and tissue in the heart. This can lead to poor circulation throughout the body, leading in turn to respiratory problems and, in some cases, sudden death.

Luckily, unlike many congenital heart defects listed in this chapter, pulmonic stenosis is both detectable and less likely to be fatal. A veterinarian may be able to identify the presence of a heart murmur during routine physical examinations in puppyhood. This murmur is located in the left base of the heart. While many puppies with this condition, especially milder forms of the disease, may not exhibit behavioral signs of pulmonic stenosis, more severe cases may exhibit symptoms of fatigue, intolerance to physical exertion, fainting, or fluid buildup in the abdominal area. Echocardiography is necessary for a definitive diagnosis. The pressure gradient between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery is measured; if this gradient is unnaturally high, it is a sign of PS. If the condition has progressed, the wall of the heart may have thickened; this is also ascertained via ECG.

Fortunately, surgical intervention is not necessary in less severe cases of pulmonic stenosis. Often, in moderate cases, individual clinical symptoms of the disease – ie, fatigue – should be treated, but no immediate treatment of the underlying cause is necessary, and dogs with PS may live long and happy lives, although medication like beta blockers may also be prescribed to minimize the likeliness of an occurrence of arrhythmia. However, in serious cases, surgical intervention is possible. Balloon valvuloplasty – a surgical insertion of a catheter into the veins across the pulmonic valve to stretch out the narrowed tissue – is a safe, efficient, and often successful surgery.

Other German Shepherd heart issues and conditions include that of Aortic Stenosis, Heart Valve Malformation, and Inherited Ventricular Tachycardia (Inherited Sudden Death).

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