On arrival at the campus you drive straight ahead and follow signs to the Small Animal Teaching Hospital. It’s a purpose build sandstone building with easy access and ample parking.
Check in at reception. Usually Joan Toohey is there to welcome you and book you in. For those that don’t know Joan she is a Dane fanatic like the rest of us and has been actively promoting this work for a number of years now. She is an avid show exhibitor and Judge. Joan makes you feel most welcome and is ready with the tea and coffee.
After checking in you will be introduced to a Vet from the DCM project. There’s a good chance it will be Hannah Stephenson who runs the research and avidly promotes the project. Next your Dane will be weighed before you and your Dane go into an examination room.
Hannah will take a brief history of your Dane including feeding regimes, previous illnesses and exercise details. She will then listen to your dog’s heart with a stethoscope to see if anything can be detected. As you would expect from someone specializing in cardiology she may hear things that your vet has not picked up.
You then proceed through to the scanning room. A blood sample is taken from the jugular. The Vets do everything to ensure that your Dane is relaxed and most people report that their Danes do not seem phased at all. Your Dane is shaved just behind the elbow on each side to ensure that the Vets are able to get the best view of the dog’s heart.
Then the scan itself. The scanning room consists of the colors scanner and a table that is electronically lowered and raised. You walk you Dane down one side of the table then the Vets gently lift them on so they are lying on their side. The table is padded so your Dane is comfortable. Although this is an unusual situation for them this doesn’t seem to bother them. Some Danes actually fall asleep whilst on the table.
ECG leads are attached to the chest area with simple sticky pads. The light is dimmed and your Dane is ready. Some jell is applied to the end of the probe and the scanning starts. The scanning process systemically looks at all aspects of the heart, including size, shape and pumping ability. You are with your Dane and you can see the whole scanning process and Hannah explains what she is looking at and what the images mean.
Once that side of the heart has been scanned you do the same for the other side. Some Danes are happy to be manoeuvered round on to their other side whilst others need the table to be lowered so they can get off. The process of getting the Dane back on to the table on their other side is repeated. As with the first side the scanning process is repeated but from a different view.
Once the scan has been completed Hannah will also attach a holter monitor. This is an amazing little box which records the heart rhythm for 24 hours and stores it on a memory card. The holter monitor is now looking for arrhythmias that may not have been seen whilst being scanned. Research is showing that arrhythmias could be a precursor to DCM and this data is vital. Arrhythmias can cause sudden death and if diagnosed a Vet can recommend treatment which can prevent this.
As the name suggests a holter/harness is fitted with leads to the relevant areas on the Dane’s chest behind the elbows on each side. The monitor its set and this is bandaged securely into place. The owner is given a diary to monitor the event of the next 24 hours such as the car journey home, exercise time, feed times and sleep and anything else of note. This will identify what was happening at the time of any arrhythmias recorded. For example your Dane may have got excited on a walk or upset when travelling in a vehicle.
The Danes seem to cope remarkably well with the contraption and harness though some people sleep in the same room as their Dane if they feel their dog is agitated and may try to rip it off.
Once home you fill in the diary during the 24 hour period and remove the holter after 24 hours during the following day. The holter is then sent back in the supplied envelope by recorded delivery.
Although you get a lot of information during the scan there are items that have to be measured from the scanned images. Hannah will contact you on your way home or when you get back home with any further results.
This is then followed up with a full report once all the tests come back from being analysed. It amounts to a full health MOT for your Dane.