GSDIVA FAQ's

What dogs get Arrhythmias?
All breeds and ages of dogs can get arrhythmias. Some specific arrhythmias are identified in specific breeds. The cause and the treatment vary widely depending on the diagnosis.


What is GSDIVA?
German Shepherd Dog Inherited Ventricular Arrhythmia (GSDIVA), is an inherited heart condition that can cause sudden death in Shiloh Shepherd puppies. The amount of the Ventricular Arrhythmias (VA) is age dependent. Before 12 weeks (3 months) of age Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) are rare but gradually increase with a peak frequency of VA, including Ventricular Tachycardia (VT), between 24 to 28 weeks (6 to 7 months) of age. Death most often occurs between the age of 16 to 32 weeks (4 to 8 months) and usually during sleep in the early morning hours or a resting period after exercise. After 28 weeks (7 months) the number of VA decreases such that many dogs after 100 weeks (25 months) of age no longer have arrhythmias and are not at risk. The most severely affected dogs do continue to have occasional VA. Diagnosis is determined by using a Holter Monitor. Breeding from lines of affected dogs is not recommended.


Symptoms
There are no outward symptoms of GSDIVA and the dog appears to be healthy and normal until sudden death occurs - caused by the degeneration of VT into Ventricular Fibrillation (VF).


Diagnosis
The only way to diagnose GSDIVA is by Holter monitoring. Ideally between the ages of 24 and 28 weeks (6 and 7 months).


Treatment
With use of antiarrhythmic agents. A combination of the drugs Mexiletine and Sotalol has been found to be the most effective in treating German Shepherd Dogs. Stress and excitement should be limited.
Note: All antiarrhythmic drugs have the potential to cause Proarrhythmia and should be used with caution.


From the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine:
Genetic Analysis of Ventricular Arrhythmia in Young German Shepherd Dogs

Spontaneous Ventricular Arrhythmia (VA) and sudden death occur in young German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs). The disorder ranges in severity from infrequent and non-life-threatening single Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) to multiple episodes of rapid polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia (VT). Dogs with VT are most likely to die suddenly. No other clinical indicators of abnormality are apparent and pathological examination of the hearts of dogs that die suddenly reveal morphologically normal hearts.

A window of vulnerability for the presence of VA and sudden death exists between approximately 3 and 18 months of age, with peak affectedness occurring at approximately 6 – 7 months of age. Affected dogs rarely have VA after 24 months of age and when they do, it is infrequent. The trait of VT is most commonly observed in dogs lying at rest and during rapid eye movement sleep. Because of the age and behavioral dependence of the expression of this disease, extensive observation via 24-hour ambulatory ECG monitoring (Holter monitoring) is often required to ascertain disease presence and its severity.
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