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Diagnostic Toolbox: Cardiopet proBNP

Veterinary cardiologists like Dr. Wood rely on an array of diagnostic tests to identify and manage pets’ cardiac disease. Through regular ultrasounds of the heart, chest x-rays, and lab work, a cardiac specialist can monitor your pet’s cardiac status and make adjustments to the treatment plan as necessary. What if your pet has never showed symptoms of heart disease? The signs and symptoms of heart disease may be apparent in an emergency situation, but what about when the symptoms are more ambiguous?

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In a recent study only 31% of cats with heart disease (cardiomyopathy), had a heart murmur. Routine proBNP testing can help identify these cats before the disease becomes progressed.

Consider the following scenarios:

1) Your cat has always been happy and healthy, but recently you’ve noticed he is eating less and sleeping more. He has never had any major health concerns, but he seems to be losing weight.

2) At your 9 year-old Chihuahua’s recent wellness visit, your primary care veterinarian noticed a faint heart murmur. Your dog has never had a heart murmur before. He’s as energetic as ever!

3) Over the last few weeks your dog has developed a cough. Concerned she might have a respiratory infection such as kennel cough, your primary care veterinarian prescribed antibiotics but the cough has not gone away after treatment.

What do these pets have in common? They are all three good candidates for Cardiopet proBNP testing!

The Cardiopet proBNP is a simple blood test that was adapted from human medicine and is used to predict the risk of developing congestive heart failure. This test measures the presence of a particular type of hormone (NTproBNP), which is released into the blood when the heart muscle is stretched or experiences stress. A few reasons the heart muscle could be stressed include:

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Congestive heart failure and upper respiratory infections share similar symptoms including coughing and lethargy. ProBNP testing can help your primary care veterinarian distinguish between the two.

A higher volume of the stress hormone may indicate your pet’s heart is experiencing a greater degree of stress, and is at higher risk of developing congestive heart failure. It is important to note that a Cardiopet proBNP test does not replace a full exam with a cardiac specialist; it merely helps determine if a cardiac exam is further recommended.
If your pet’s results are abnormal your veterinarian will likely recommend you follow up with a cardiologist for additional diagnostics.

So why might your veterinarian recommend a Cardiopet proBNP blood test?

  • If your pet is showing symptoms that may or may not be related to heart health. These symptoms include coughing, lethargy, a loss of appetite, or exercise intolerance.
  • If the sound or rhythm of your pet’s heartbeat changes but they are not showing any other symptoms, such as a new heart murmur being detected at an annual wellness visit.
  • As a baseline to compare to future Cardiopet proBNP readings if your pet is at high risk for developing heart disease due to age or breed.
  • As a simple way to track the trend and progression of heart disease between visits with a cardiology specialists.

Here at Cardiology Northwest we believe the Cardiopet proBNP is a simple, effective way to measure cardiac stress levels. We frequently recommend bi-annual testing, which can be done at our office or with your primary care veterinarian. Contact our office for more information about how proBNP testing could benefit your pet’s preventative healthcare!