Brandy, a seven year old female spayed Shepherd mix, left home one morning to romp in the woods with her housemate. When she had not returned hours later her owners went in search. Brandy was found collapsed by a pond in a pool of blood. This was a pond inhabited by beavers and Brandy’s owners were certain she had gotten too curious for her own good and was attacked by a beaver.
She was rushed to Berkshire Veterinary Hospital were she was found to be in shock, with pale mucous membranes, a heart murmur, and a gaping wound in her left armpit. Brandy had lost a lot of blood and her condition was serious. An intravenous catheter was placed and Brandy was treated for shock with intravenous corticosteroids, fluids and antibiotics.
Laboratory blood work showed normal liver and kidney function and a mild anemia. Once stable, Brandy was taken to surgery. . Her wound was explored and the tissue damage repaired. Brandy was maintained on intravenous fluid treatment during her surgery and her vital signs were monitored via a pulse oximeter, which records her blood oxygen saturation and heart rate. Postoperatively Brandy’s red blood count stabilized. Brandy was monitored closely in intensive care. She was doing well post-operatively, but in twenty-four hours her heart started to beat erratically. Brandy had developed a cardiac arrhythmia. Brandy’s EKG tracing below demonstrates the arrhythmia called ventricular tachycardia. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.
Ventricular tachycardia can be secondary to an underlying heart condition, can develop secondary to systemic diseases or can be related to anemia or hypotension. There may be no overt clinical signs or the pet may be weak and could even die suddenly.
A crucial question to ask when a pet develops this type of heart arrhythmia is whether to treat or not. The medications used in treatment carry some risks. Treatment is usually recommended if there are
25 or more abnormal beats
If the heart rate is > 130 beats per minute
If the condition exists in a breed at risk for sudden death (German Shepherds and Boxers)
If symptoms related to the arrhythmia exist.
Constant EKG monitoring is imperative during treatment. The goal of treatment is restoring the heart to a normal rhythm. Based on Brandy’s fast heart rate, the fact that she had greater than 25 abnormal beats per minute, and her breed, we recommended treatment.
Intravenous medication was initiated and her EKG improved. She was maintained on intravenous medication overnight with EKG monitoring. The next day oral antiarrhythmic medication was started and she went home the following day on this medication. On follow-up examinations her heart rate and rhythm have been normal and the medication was discontinued.
Brandy is doing well. Her wounds have healed and her heart continues to have a normal rhythm. We all hope she has a newfound respect for the protective feisty beavers that live in her neighborhood.