Thursday, March 26, 2015

Have a Miniature Schnauzer? Know about Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS)

by Nancy Kay, DVM 

Pay close attention all of you Miniature Schnauzer lovers! The breed you fancy is prone to a heart condition called Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS). The sinus involved is not within the respiratory tract. Rather, it is a structure called the sinus node that is located within the heart.

The sinus node is responsible for electronically initiating the normal heartbeat and establishing the normal heart rate. 

In dogs with SSS, the sinus node has lapses in which it discharges beats much too slowly, or not at all. As a result, there are long pauses in between heartbeats. Sometimes, an electrical impulse originating from another part of the heart will come to the rescue, particularly if the heart has stopped for several seconds. Such rescue beats can be very rapid.

In most cases, the sinus node will eventually resume its job in which case there will be periods of normal heart rate (60-100 beats per minute). Other dogs with SSS have a constant bradycardia (heart rate is too slow). Even with exercise or excitement, the heart rate remains at less than 40 beats per minute.

What causes it?

The exact cause of the sinus node malfunction is unknown. Although any breed of dog can be affected, a genetic basis is suspect because SSS primarily affects Miniature Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, and Pugs. Middle-aged to older females are particularly predisposed. The mode of inheritance is unknown, and there is no genetic testing available. Nonetheless, the appearance of SSS in a breeding dog should strongly discourage future breeding.

What are the symptoms?

Dog with SSS becomes symptomatic because of their subnormal heart rate. The most common symptoms include:
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapse
  • Fainting episodes (also known as syncopal episodes)

Some dogs with severe, long-standing SSS can develop symptoms of congestive heart failure including weakness, labored breathing, and coughing.

It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between a fainting episode (syncope) and a seizure. Videotaping such an event at home to then share with the examining veterinarian can be most helpful.

How is it diagnosed?

SSS is strongly suspected based on the dog’s breed, history, and a thorough physical examination. Listening with a stethoscope often reveals a heart rate that is lower than normal and stays this way even when the dog is asked to exercise. Other testing that may be recommended include:
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) looks for abnormalities characteristic of SSS changes.
  • Blood testing rules out an underlying metabolic problem. Abnormalities in blood calcium or potassium levels have the potential to mimic SSS changes.
  • Holter monitoring provides a 24-hour electrocardiogram (ECG) tracing. The testing equipment is housed within a vest that is worn by the dog at home. This may be necessary to determine if a dog has SSS, particularly if the heart rate is normal at the time of the physical examination.
  • An atropine response test can identify dogs with SSS. Atropine is a drug that normally causes the heart rate to escalate. When atropine is given to a dog with SSS, the very low heart rate remains unchanged.
  • Chest x-rays document evidence of heart failure.
  • Cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) looks for changes in the appearance of the heart valves and sizes of the four chambers that can occur secondary to chronic SSS.
How is it treated?

For dogs with SSS, the therapeutic goal is to maintain a normal heart rate so as to restore a good quality of life. If SSS is caught quite early during an annual physical exam, and the dog is symptom-free, no treatment other than careful monitoring may be required for the time being.

For dogs who are experiencing symptoms, two forms of therapy can be considered:

Vagolytic drugs: These medications are used in an attempt to maintain a normal heart rate. While it is reasonable to try such drugs, they don’t have a very consistent track record of success. Additionally, side effects are relatively common. Examples of vagolytic drugs are theophylline, terbutaline, and propantheline bromide.

Pacemaker implantation: This is truly the treatment of choice for most dogs with symptoms caused by SSS. When properly placed and monitored, a pacemaker is capable of restoring a normal quality of life for years to come. Veterinarians who specialize in cardiology are the masters of pacemaker implantation. Just as in people, the pacemaker can be placed without a significant surgery involved. Access to pacemaker implantation may be limited depending on where one lives and their ability to pay for such a state-of-the-art procedure.

Have you ever cared for a dog with sick sinus syndrome?


Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Did you get your copy of Speaking for Spot yet?

If not, go get the book. It's likely the most important dog book you'll ever read.

Articles by Dr. Kay:
Reasonable Expectations: The Ability to Discuss Your Internet Research With Your Vet
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Even The Best Veterinarian Can Make A Mistake
A Different Way to Spay
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog: Lily's Story
If You Don't Know What A Lick Granuloma Is, Count Your Blessings!
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning 
Talking Teeth 
Urinary Accidents
I Can't Believe He Ate That! Foreign Body Ingestion 
What Caused Murphy's And Ruska'sPneumothorax?
The Whole Picture: When The Test Results Don't Match What's In Front Of You 
Stop that Scratching
Veterinarians And Vaccines: A Slow Learning Curve
What is a Veterinary Specialist? 
Veterinary Specialists: Oncologist 
Veterinary Specialists: Cardiologist 
Veterinary Specialists: Internist 
Veterinary Specialists: Neurologist
Veterinary Specialists: Surgeons
Nutritional Management of Canine Epilepsy 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Part III - How is WiggleLess® helping to provide support for other dogs suffering from or prone to IVDD?

by Lisa Luckenbach

WiggleLess® was created to do one simple thing: HELP DOGS! 

There are many wonderful dog lovers out there and I come across amazing parents every day who make my work incredibly rewarding.

Along with our goal to constantly improve our product and find pups in need of support, my team endeavors to provide inspiring stories and a place to connect to other IVDD resources.

June and Henry have both passed on (not from back problems), but they were the inspiration behind my WiggleLess® back brace and I am determined to share what I know and continue to learn with anyone who loves dogs as much as I do.

When I first became acquainted with the disease, there wasn’t the wealth of information out there that we have today. I am amazed each week at the new sites and forums allowing people a space to discuss IVDD and how it has changed their lives and the lives of their dogs. We are now sharing stories of how we can make strides towards wellness and bring relief to our fur babies; which gives me a great sense of reward and satisfaction.

One of my most recent favorite thoughts for the day came from Dodgerslist, a fantastic forum for all things IVDD related. 

They reminded readers that “your dog CAN have a great quality of life living with IVDD -- no matter whether the dog regains the ability to walk or not. Quality of life is totally a matter of perspective. There is our human perspective; and then, there is the dog’s perspective.”

They suggested, no matter what level of ability your dog achieves after recovery, your dog will be happy and loving life as long as three basic, but very simple requirements are met: food, water, a safe, comfy place to sleep, and a family’s love. I have to agree 100%!

With the right diagnosis and the right treatment, IVDD is manageable, and remembering the simple ingredients it takes to make your dog feel loved and happy is top of the list. My Henry lived well past his IVDD diagnosis, as did June. My pet professional gave me the tools and information I needed to manage my pups' ailments – and using the brace to help aid their comfort gave me a sense of accomplishment and shared relief!

Today, there are now eight sizes of WiggleLess® dog back braces available, providing comfortable, firm, back support for many breeds and builds of dogs with back problems. 

When used as directed, the vet-recommended and patented WiggleLess® dog back brace offers firm support, back stability and stress relief for your dog. I often smile up with gratitude for Henry and June’s journey, knowing they taught me so much and are now helping me from the heavens to do my small part to make a difference and give support to other dogs.

At WiggleLess®, we strive weekly to work with the local community and our friends across the US and abroad to bring IVDD to the forefront of the pet community so we can all learn and share but most of all help all our beloved dogs to live the longest, healthiest lives possible.


Lisa Luckenbach has developed WiggleLess® back braces for dogs that are overweight and need extra support, elderly with aching backs, diagnosed with IVDD-related back problems, or overly active and can benefit from the structure a dog back brace provides. 

In addition to running WiggleLess®, Lisa is a registered yoga instructor, licensed massage therapist, public speaker, ordained minister, and breast cancer survivor. She shares her home with her husband, two teen-aged daughters and three spunky, adopted dogs, Ryder (Cocker Spaniel), LaVerne (Schnauzer/Doxie mix), and Chai (Doxie/Jack russell mix). Visit WiggleLess®.com to learn more about Lisa and her back brace for dogs.

Articles by Lisa Luckenbach:
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Part I - My Babies Have What? 
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Part II - Living with IVDD and the Development of the Brace 

Related articles:
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I) 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
What Acupuncture Did For Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)

Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Adoption Monday: Emily, Treeing Walker Coonhound: Amherst, NY

Katan is a big boy, and a very loyal dog. 

He was just surrendered by a couple that had him since he was a puppy. Katan is neutered, and up to date with vaccinations. He is also on Heartworm preventative.

Katan is in good health, and looking for a new home. 

The family asked us to take him because he has become very protective of his owners since their baby arrived. He is also very protective of his food and living area. They are concerned that he might not be good with small children, and they don't want to take a chance with their baby.

Katan is a very loving dog, and will be good in a family with adults. 

We will update his profile when we get to know him better. Oh thing we do know about him is that he likes to climb in water buckets!

Adoption fee is $100. If you are interested in adopting Katan. or would like more details on him, please Email us: Thank you!


Based in Amherst, NY, Broken Down Dogs, Inc. is a non-profit organization that was formed to help homeless animals find permanent, loving homes.   

Broken Down Dogs, Inc are always in need of foster homes in the Buffalo area to temporarily house  rescued animals until a match with a new owner can be made. Contact them if you are interested in fostering a homeless animal!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

There Is a Reason For Everything

If your dog does something strange, unexpected or unwanted, there is always a reason. Might be medical, might be something else. Always try to figure it out. Both you and your dog will be happier for it.


Sonya Bevan of Dog Charming is an avid dog lover with a Bachelor of Science degree in physiotherapy. This combination lead to seeking science based information on how to teach dogs. Dog training is both a science and an art. When based on solid principles of behavioural science, teaching also allows creativity when applied to each unique dog. Most of all, it should be fun for both participants and a way to bond with these special animals we love so much. Zuri is Sonya's "partner in crime" and the driving force behind Dog Charming Behaviour Consulting. The name Zurison is a reflection of their special bond.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Foot Pad Lacerations, Lumps, Bumps and more

The Deep Foot Pad Lacerations. What To Do, and When To Do It

Cookie cut her paw pad early in the Winter. Must have found a piece of glass at the neighbor's field. It wasn't really deep but it was deep enough. If the vet was open, we would have taken her. But since they weren't and it didn't make sense to make it an emergency, we treated it ourselves. I was probably overly diligent with it but it worked and the pad didn't get infected and healed.

Find out what Dr. Krista recommends.

Remove Masses When They’re Small… Please!

Nobody likes the idea of a surgery. But how is giving cancer time to grow better? The bigger the lump gets, the harder it is to remove and the more collateral damage along with it.

With lumps and bumps, the rules are simple. Have it checked and identified while it's small. My rule is having it checked and identified right when I find it. What is the way to truly identify a bump? Looking at it does not cut it. Only looking at the actual cells does. That is done by getting a sample with fine needle aspirate or a biopsy. Only when it's identified a decision can be made what to do with it.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) – The Dreaded Bloat in Dogs  

There is never enough you can read about Gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV, or as it is generally referred to - bloat. Many veterinarians call this one the mother of all emergencies. If you have a deep-chested breed, read about is over and over to know what to watch for.

Unfortunately, the science is still fuzzy on the definitive cause. The notorious risk factors seem to be body conformation, age, temperament and feeding habits. Some studies point out dietary ingredients, stomach transit time, family history ...

Note that dogs who are fearful or anxious seem to be more likely to develop GDV.

Know the signs. With GDV, time is of the essence.

The ABC’s of Antibodies & the Effects of Food

You probably have a rough idea what antibodies are. Learn about the different types and their relationship with food. If you try the Nutriscan, let me hear from you.

Listen With Your Eyes to Tell if Your Pet is in Pain

This is another subject people can never read enough about. The signs of pain in your dog can be quite subtle, confused with effects of aging, settling down, getting grumpy ... Your dog cannot tell you, "man, by joints really hurt today." It's your job to see the signs.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Veterinary Highlights: Endoscopic Camera Capsule

First time I saw anything like that was one of the episodes of House MD.

Very neat new way of taking a look inside the GI tract!

Much easier than endoscopy and no anesthesia needed. The tiny capsule equipped with 4 cameras can handle about 18 hours of 360 degree view video of the digestive tract.

It's been only available for animals for about 6 months.

Easier on the dogs, no anesthesia, lower cost, no hospital stay ... I'll be looking when our vet might get these.

Source article:
Tiny Capsule Revolutionizing Veterinary Technology
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...