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The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel which connects the aorta to the pulmonary artery. In the fetus this blood vessel is normally present and functions to divert blood around the lungs which are not yet functioning. Shortly after birth this vessel will normally close; when it does not patent ductus arteriosus is the result. PDA is one of the most common cardiac birth defects seen in dogs. Females are more likely to be affected than males. Normally the blood flows from the right side of the heart to the lungs, then into the left side of the heart and out to the rest of the body. In PDA some of the blood which is leaving the left side of the heart is channeled back into the lungs. Because of this the heart must work harder to make sure enough blood is getting to the rest of the body. If this condition goes with out treatment premature death is likely.
Any dog can be affected by this condition but there are certain breeds which are at a higher risk for developing it than others. These breeds include the German Shepherd, Maltese, Cocker Spaniel, Poodle, Pomeranian, and Shetland Sheepdog.
Patent ductus arteriosus is inherited which means it can be passed from parents to offspring. The mode of inheritance is very complex and not fully understood.
In the early stages of PDA there are normally no noticeable signs. The first sign that your dog may have PDA is a heart murmur. This heart murmur is usually called a machinery, or continuous, murmur. In later stages of the disease breathing difficulties, coughing, exercise intolerance, and inactivity may be seen. Depending on the severity of the case congestive heart failure may result.
Patent ducts arteriosus can be diagnosed using a number of tests. In some cases a veterinarian can diagnose the condition by auscultation, or listening to the heart with a stethoscope. A chest x-ray can also be helpful in diagnosing PDA. The radiograph will show heart abnormalities. In addition to these an echocardiogram may be performed. This is a cardiac ultrasound which shows the heart beating in read time and a veterinarian can see where blood is flowing through the heart. More than one test may need to be performed before a definitive diagnosis of PDA can be made.
Treatment for PDA consists of surgery to close the blood vessel. In most cases the vessel is closed by using a surgical suture which ties it off. Surgery is suggested to be performed shortly after a diagnosis has been made. Waiting until symptoms arise or the condition worsens is not recommended. Medical management may be used before surgery to ease coughing or breathing difficulties if they are causing the dog problems. Overall the surgery has proven to be very successful in treating this condition.
When caring for dogs with PDA it is important to remember that their heart must work much harder to pump blood to its body than dogs without PDA. This means that they will not be able to exercise or play as much as a normal dog. Do not let dogs with this condition overwork themselves as this can lead to shortness of breath or collapse. After surgery has been performed it is important to follow your veterinarian's care instructions. This will ensure that your dog recovers as quickly as possible. Once healed from surgery you should slowly increase your dog's activity level as this will give their body a chance to adjust.
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