Canine subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS) is an abnormal, congenital heart murmur caused by subaortic stenosis (SAS). There is a high incidence of this condition among Rottweiler dogs.
There is very good evidence that it is heritable, passed on from generation to generation genetically. This genetic trait is what is called polygenic, so that the inheritance is complex. An animal might have the genes for SAS, yet have no actual sign of SAS. Also, an animal might have signs of subaortic stenosis, and yet offspring with signs of SAS may not be seen for a couple of generations. Any animal that has subaortic stenosis should not be bred, because they can definitely pass the defect on to future offspring. There is some controversy as to whether the parents of an animal with SAS should be bred again.
Heart murmurs are graded on a scale of 1 to 6, with one being very mild and six being very serious, with some animals dying before they reach this high stage due to a sudden leap in the grade or through long-term slowing down. Murmurs can exist due to a large number of heart problems (infection, trauma, anemia, etc.; some are innocent, with no cardiac pathology. Tests such as chest X-rays, echocardiography, and electrocardiography can be performed to evaluate the severity of the situation
The condition is usually detected during puppy visits to the veterinarian by hearing a heart murmur during physical examination. A heart murmur is the abnormal sound of blood rushing through one of the heart valves. Instead of just the heartbeat, a whistle of blood flow through a narrowed opening is heard. The puppy will most likely appear normal in all other respects. There is a possibility that the murmur may come and go, or it may develop slowly; this can be determined by frequent checks of a puppy's heart during its first few months. The chance for long-term survival of SAS is low.
Puppies and dogs diagnosed with subaortic stenosis can suffer from heart failure and sudden death. If a dog with SAS develops heart failure, medications can be prescribed to alleviate the clinical signs (sudden/strong lethargicism, continuous heavy panting, rise in temperature etc.)
The OFA has established a Congenital Heart Registry whose guidelines were established by veterinary cardiologists. A dog which auscultates normally at 12 months of age is considered to be free of congenital heart disease; upon confirmation of this, the OFA will issue a certificate.
Aortic stenosis in the Rottweiler appears to be true subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS), similar to that in the Newfoundland dog, as opposed to the valvular form (seen more in boxer dogs) or the supravalvular form sometimes seen in people.