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Heart problems in the kelpie.
As heart problems are currently an issue within the breed, we publish here a summary of the problem, prepared by two cardiologists and the owners of the outback drovers as well as kelpiebrink kennel.
Based on years of experience with kelpies from both the kennel owners and the cardiologists.
We find it less useful in this case to go into the workings of the heart here.
Report cardiac kelpie, prepared in part by:
DR.NIEK BEIJERINK DVM PhD Dipl. ECVIM-CA (Cardiology)
Drs Hanneke van Meeuwen; veterinarian, cardiologist
Heart diseases are regularly reported in kelpies (AK and WK), including:
mitral valve degeneration (with or without heart enlargement)
heart enlargement due to unknown cause.
Enlarged hearts are also often called a so-called sport heart. This is mostly seen in working breeds, and a sports heart is not a problem.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has not previously been found by the DAs and veterinary cardiologists we consulted by them personally in this breed.
That a single kelpie does have DCM mentioned is, according to experts, an anomaly and could be a misdiagnosis (confusion with mitral valve degeneration or a sporulation heart).
Several other heart diseases could also cause occasional heart enlargement, but these are not considered here.
.There are several problems that make it difficult to assess the cardiac health situation in Kelpies:
cardiovascular examinations (including cardiac ultrasounds) are not performed in the same way by every vet, and the results are sometimes open to multiple interpretations, partly because they are assessed from varying frames of reference.
Another problem is the lack of access to the patient chart by owners/breeders/veterinarians. That problems can be caused by a variety of factors is known, but difficult or impossible to measure.
Mitral valve degeneration (MVD)
MVD occurs in all breeds. 70-80% of dogs with heart problems have it and 90% of all heart murmurs are found in dogs older than 5 years. This disease may not necessarily be problematic, for example if only a minor leakage is detected at older ages.
When it does become a problem: if a dog is found to have a heart murmur under 5 years of age. Initial screening can be done by any DA. Perhaps auscultation by a cardiologist is better, but that is not low-threshold.
Colour Doppler with ultrasound is also very reliable in determining whether a leakage is present or not, but this technique (Jet Area Technique) is very unreliable in determining the severity of leakage. So you should not use this method for that either. Additional cardiovascular examination is recommended. This includes, for example, chest X-ray if a dog is distressed. Heart failure is in fact demonstrated with this technique.
Older dogs (say 10 years and older) with heart murmurs are not normal, but not necessarily worrisome (two-thirds of dogs with mitral valve insufficiency do not die from the disease, especially if it is demonstrated later in life)
Minimal leakage, without hearing murmurs, is often not a problem. Also occurs in all breeds. This is also the reason why, in screening tests, it is better to auscultate only (and not do Doppler ultrasound immediately). The point is to pick out the bad cases. With screening, it is never OK to remove a dog that may be normal from the breeding programme.
In fact, dogs should be followed for a number of years if you want to say anything meaningful (they can also be followed if you vaccinate or titrate on a regular basis).
Dogs rarely drop dead just because of MVD
There is no DNA test available because it is polygenetic.
Also, it is multifactorial (training/nutrition/infections/bad physical condition/conditions under which the dog is kept et cetera)
Because we feel that at least 10-15% of dogs (based on a cross-sectional screened study. This therefore necessarily underestimates the true prevalence) within the breed have MVD we think there may be a problem.
Some bloodlines show a significantly higher number of affected cases than others.
The question here is: to what extent has the kelpie world focused on this line because the first kelpie breeders who started screening happened to have these lines.
Population research will be useful but is not evident at this stage.
To find out how big the problem really is we need to screen larger numbers of kelpies.