Impact of collaborative care on canine congestive heart failure patient survival

Over the past few decades, veterinary medicine has responded to the shift of the pet being treated
more and more as a member of the family. Specialty veterinary medicine, as well as 24/7
emergency care for companion animals, has become widely available in many areas as people
continue to request a level of medical care for their pets that they would for themselves.
Dogs and cats typically hide early signs of heart disease until the disease has progressed
significantly and is harder to treat. Thus, early, accurate diagnosis as well as the most
appropriate treatment plan is key to successful intervention and treatment of disease in pets. We
have long known that collaboration between primary care veterinarians and board certified
cardiologists for patients with heart disease results in a better outcome for patients and improved
quality of life. CVCA has published a study to determine the effect of the partnership between
primary care veterinarians (pcDVM) and in person boardcertified
veterinary cardiologists
(BCVC) on survival time of dogs after the onset of congestive heart failure (CHF) and associated
revenue for the attending pcDVMs.
In this study, the medical records of canine patients suffering from congestive heart failure due to
mitral valve disease were reviewed. The survival times of the patients who had been managed
jointly by a primary care veterinarian and in person veterinary cardiologist were compared to the
patients whose owners had elected not to see a cardiologist. The patients who were cared for by
both the primary care veterinarian and cardiologist lived 74% longer than those who did not see a
As in human medicine, a board certified veterinary specialist is someone who has devoted years
of additional training and testing to become experts in a particular body system or field. This
allows for more accurate diagnosis and proper intervention which is especially critical with heart
disease, which can go undetected in pets until advanced stages. Ongoing management of cardiac
disease includes routine communication between the client, primary care veterinarian, and
cardiologist to ensure that the patient is always receiving the right combination of medications
over time. This ongoing collaboration and partnership ensure the patient is receiving the best
possible treatment plan to provide a long, happy life which is exactly what we all wants for our

Bonnie K. Lefbom, DVM, DACVIM; Neal K. Peckens, DVM, DACVIM

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