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Heart Disease


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Heart Disease


Irish Wolfhound Heart Disease

Courtesy of  Dr Serena E. Brownlie PhD BVM&S MRCVS Cert SAC

Heart disease in Irish Wolfhounds has been the subject of an on-going research programme in the UK since 1986. To the end of April 2013, data has been obtained from over 1800 Wolfhounds and many have been examined on several occasions, giving over 3200 separate examinations. Serious heart disease has been diagnosed in 280 dogs (15.6%). Despite all this data, there are many questions still to be answered. However there are some facts that every Wolfhound owner should understand:

There is a big difference between heart disease and heart failure. Many Wolfhounds live for years quite happily with hearts that are technically not quite normal and may eventually die of another disease. However once the problem becomes severe enough that the dog is unable to cope with it, drug treatment will be required or the dog will die. It is believed that it is an acquired disease, not congenital (ie not something the dog is born with). Symptoms of heart disease include rapid weight loss, breathing difficulty, abdominal swelling, collapse and sudden death. However it is important to remember that there are other diseases that may cause similar signs, therefore the condition should be diagnosed by a veterinary surgeon, preferably a veterinary cardiologist.

Every wolfhound that has developed heart failure has had an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation. This is the “hallmark” of heart disease in the Irish Wolfhound. Although we hoped to find another cause, the sad fact is that the tendency to develop atrial fibrillation appears to be inherited and it may not develop until the dog has already produced offspring. Although the genetics is not yet clear-cut, it is likely to be associated with an autosomal dominant gene, or group of genes. This means that an affected dog will transmit it to 50% of his or her puppies. If all wolfhounds developed heart disease in old age, it would not be regarded as a problem. Unfortunately it may develop in quite young dogs (sometimes under 2 years old). Affected littermates can develop problems at different ages, and just because a dog did not develop heart disease until old age does not mean that its progeny will be similar. Our data shows that males are more likely to be diagnosed than females, but it does not appear to be “sex-linked”. Males seem to develop the disease at a younger age and therefore it is perhaps more likely to be picked up at screening, especially if breeders do not heart test their dogs beyond breeding age. There may still be other factors involved of course – we are interested in the effects of nutrition, the immune system and viral infections.

Although no-one has a crystal ball to predict what will happen in the future, yearly heart screening is the only way currently available to detect a problem, and this is advised for all wolfhounds, especially breeding dogs. It is recommended that dogs are examined by stethoscope, electrocardiography (ECG) and echocardiography (ultrasound). Some hounds will have an “equivocal” test ie they will have a minor abnormality which may or may not progress. There is unfortunately no treatment which will prevent progression to heart failure, but heart rate can be controlled, some dangerous rhythm abnormalities can be treated to prevent sudden death and heart failure can be detected early, so even for pet dogs it is a good idea. By taking part in screening, your dog will also be providing further research information which will benefit the breed.

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Heart Testing


We offer free heart testing to all Bonaforte  Irish Wolfhounds, 

Any Irish Wolfhound born here will have an ongoing record of cardiac health. 

 

Heart Testing


We offer free heart testing to all Bonaforte  Irish Wolfhounds, 

Any Irish Wolfhound born here will have an ongoing record of cardiac health. 

 

Free heart testing for all Bonaforte Irish Wolfhounds

Every six months we heart test our Irish Wolfhounds,  and as a kennel, we are committed to the taking the breed forward with healthy hearts.  With this in mind, we decided to go one step further and  offer all our puppy owners the opportunity to have their Wolfhounds heart tested at the kennel  (at no cost to their owners).  This scheme begins when your hound is 18 months to two years old and then annually at Dr Serene Brownlie’s (Veterinary Cardiologist) discretion after that so that any dog born here will have an ongoing record of cardiac health.    

All results from both our dogs and any of the dogs we have bred we have given full permission to be entered onto the database and the findings to be published or be used for further research as Dr Serene Brownlie sees fit. 

These are fascinating times, and we feel that the tide is turning regarding health testing in general and a desire to move things forward? We are very excited at the prospect of achieving an accurate picture of the health of our dogs, even though there may be some unpleasant surprises along the way, but when those do crop up, we will take them as a learning opportunity, continuing forward with help and support.  

Established and well-respected breeders should heart test their Wolfhounds at least once a year. Please always ask to see the up to date heart certificates.  

A healthy heart is a good starting point. 
 

Follow the link and publish your heart Test Results on The Irish Wolfhound Health Group page


Heart Test Certificates


Please only buy a puppy if you have seen the heart test certificates of the parents. 

Heart Test Certificates


Please only buy a puppy if you have seen the heart test certificates of the parents. 

Irish Wolfhound Heart Test Certificates Explained

A strong heart is a good starting point for Irish Wolfhound health.

It is a recommendation for the Irish Wolfhound breed that you have your hound heart tested every year.  Heart Testing especially applies to anyone who is breeding. It is by no means a guarantee of heart health, but what it does mean is the breeder is being responsible and taking every precaution possible to use healthy Wolfhounds at the time of breeding. Cardiovascular disease in Wolfhounds is considered hereditary; there is a 50% chance that a puppy will be affected if the parents are diseased.  We have started to address the issue by heart testing every 6 months and by doing so minimising the risks of the disease.  

Please ask to see the heart test certificates of the parents of any puppy that you are thinking of buying.  You will see from looking at these certificates, that the hearts have been listened to and examined by a Veterinary Cardiologist, who uses three different methods of testing the Irish Wolfhounds heart during this examination.   Please read the certificates carefully and there is no reason why you should not have a copy.  

What you are looking for on the Heart Certificate are ticks in BOTH the NORMAL boxes on the lower half of the certificate.  This is the all clear of a healthy heart on the day and one which can be used for breeding for 12 months from the date of testing.   

Should an ABNORMAL box be ticked, the hound is not cleared for breeding.

Should an EQUIVOCAL box be ticked, this means that the hound has neither passed nor failed, but it does say the hound has not been cleared for breeding and requires re-testing, typically 6 months after the test date.  Until an EQUIVOCAL  hound tests NORMAL, it should not be bred with.  An EQUIVOCAL reading is neither a pass nor a fail; it means the Wolfhound needs another test.   Equivocal may or may not be seen again on the day of a re-test.  Such is nature, sometimes not black or white.  The Equivocal box allows for this and allows for a period to see if the condition changes.  The alternative would be to tick the Abnormal box, but with the Equivocal box ticked the hound is permitted a period to determine the condition.  

You may see a Heart Certificate where a MURMUR is detected and graded.  Depending on the grade of the murmur the Wolfhound can still be bred from, and the NORMAL boxes will have been ticked. The grade of these murmurs may vary from test to test, but you are still looking for the NORMAL boxes to be ticked, so the hound has been cleared for breeding. 

I hope my layperson's explanation of the Heart Certificate helps when choosing your puppy and your breeder.  I know how exciting the thought of having a puppy can be, and especially as many people have always longed for an Irish Wolfhound.  However, if you truly love this breed and care about its future please only buy from responsible breeders who heart test and those who will share their hound's heart test results with you.   

There is no excuse why a breeder should not share these certificates and the information they contain with you, or give you a copy.  You will need to see a certificate for both the Dam and the Sire.  The heart test certificates are filled out by the qualified Veterinary Cardiologist and given to the breeder/owners at the time of the examination.  Please be aware that all three methods of testing are required, and the Vet carrying out the test needs to have specialist qualifications. 

Would you like to have your Irish Wolfhound heart tested? 

The Irish Wolfhound Health Group have set up The Regional Heart Testing Scheme.  It is an initiative designed to offer all Irish Wolfhound owners, be they pet, rescue or show dogs, regular heart screening at very accessible rates and at the same time provide valuable information for ongoing research into heart disease in Irish Wolfhounds by Dr Serena Brownlie.

Irish Wolfhound Heart Test Results


Irish Wolfhound Heart Test Results



I am making a start collating the Bonaforte Kennel documentation ready to send to the Irish Wolfhound Health Group. Meanwhile please check out our results above.

Please support the IWHG initiative and publish your heart test results.