The Heart of the Matter

Google Maps location for Frankston Heights Veterinary Centre

Frankston Heights Veterinary Centre
231 Frankston-Flinders Rd
VIC 3199

03 5971 4888
03 5971 4887

This month's email newsletter focuses on the heart, and what happens to our pets when their's stops working properly. I thought I'd add my two cents worth here...

You can read our newsletter here and sign-up to receive it by email here.


“Home is where the heart is” 1, “Have a heart”, “Straight from the heart” 2, “Heart of Hearts”, “Hearts and Minds”, “Heart and Soul”...

The heart has long been the mythical centre of the body, the place from which life force flows, the source of love (and clichés). It has been celebrated in poetry and prose, on screen and stage, in song and art. And whilst those long-held thoughts about the heart's role aren't strictly accurate, the heart remains the most vital of vital organs.


The cardiovascular system is a hugely complex network of pipes and pumps (cardio means heart, vascular means vessels ie arteries and veins). Essentially, it makes up the world's most complicated plumbing - but, to over-simplify; it is a figure of eight with a pair of pumps where the loops of the eight cross over.

Just as a water-pump sucks water in at one end, and pushes it out at the other; the heart sucks blood in at one end, and pushes it out at the other.

One pump (sometimes referred to as the left heart) sucks blood in from the lungs, and pushes it to the rest of the body (shown in red on the diagram), while the other pump (the right heart) drains blood from the body and pushes it to the lungs (shown in blue on the diagram).

Heart failure happens when one or both of the pumps stop working properly - and the symptoms that we see are all related to what happens afterwards.

Coughing occurs when fluid builds up in the lungs, because the heart isn't draining the blood from the lungs well enough.

Tiredness and weakness happen because the muscles aren't being supplied with enough blood, because the heart isn't pushing the blood to the muscles well enough.

Fainting and collapse happen because the heart isn't pushing blood to the brain well enough.

There are a number of medications that we can use to reduce the symptoms of heart failure. We can make the heart beat more efficiently, and we can reduce the amount of work that the heart needs to do.

A good way to keep an eye on heart function at home, is to wait until your pet is asleep and then count how many breaths they take in a minute. A number less than 30 is good. Keep a log of this information, because it will help us to help your pet.

There is a handy smartphone app called Cardalis, which can help you do this.




Getting back to those clichés, I wanted to touch on one of the other things that the heart is supposed to be responsible for: love. I know that I am in danger of sounding a bit like somebody who enjoys romantic comedies, but love actually is all around3.

I get to see love every day; sometimes I see it as joy, sometimes as grief, sometimes through a simple pat on the head. Sometimes I hear it in a person's voice when I tell them the results of a test. It's very easy to see a pet's love for their owner in their trusting eyes, or their wagging tail. I will never tire of seeing someone love their pet, or a pet love their owner.


As a small animal vet, I get to be involved in some of a family's most intimate and love-filled moments; from seeing love growing between a new pet and their family, right through to the final act of love that is euthanasia.

It is love that makes my job so hugely rewarding, but also so hugely stressful. Love turns a pet from a possession into a friend, and looking after someone's friend is a much bigger deal than looking after someone's possessions. It's a privilege in fact, and we take it very seriously.


  1. Pliny the Elder
  2. Bryan Adams - 1977
  3. Richard Curtis - 2003 (Love Actually)


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