What is heart disease and heart conditions in dogs?
Heart disease is an unfortunate but tolerable condition for your dog. The heart is the most important organ in your dog’s body. It pumps blood containing oxygen and nutrients through the blood vessels to the cells of the body. Most heart conditions involve a decrease in the effective pumping of blood. This can lead to a buildup of fluid in the chest and abdomen. There are two main types of heart conditions: one affecting the heart valve and the other the heart muscle. Dogs with either type can be successfully managed through nutrition, exercise and, if necessary, medication. With the right treatment plan your pet can live a happy life after diagnosis.
The Two Main Heart Conditions:
Chronic Valvular Disease: A leaking heart valve reduces the quantity of blood that can be pumped around the body. This is the most common sort of heart disease we see in general practice
Myocardial Disease: In this condition, weakness or thickening of the heart muscle results in the heart pumping less efficiently. This condition is relatively rare.
What causes heart disease?
Although there is no single cause, aging is the most common reason dogs develop heart conditions. Other factors that can contribute include:
Body condition: Overweight dogs are more likely to develop heart disease.
Age: Heart conditions in dogs occur more frequently with increasing age.
Breed: In dogs, chronic valvular disease is more common in small breeds such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, Pomeranians and schnauzers. Myocardial disease is more common in large and giant breeds like Great Danes and Irish wolfhounds.
Does my dog have a heart condition?
It can be difficult to tell if your dog has a heart condition because the signs can be similar to those of other dog diseases. Your vet may check for heart disease using some of the following methods.
- A stethoscope exam can reveal murmurs and fluid in the lungs
- Palpation (feeling with their fingers) can reveal unusual pulses
- X-rays reveal heart enlargement
- An ECG can identify heart enlargement and irregular rhythms
- Blood and urine tests can reveal heartworms and the condition of other internal organs
The following signs may indicate a heart problem in your dog.
- Tired, lack of energy
- Fainting or collapsing
- Frequent coughing. In some cases, a low-pitched cough that sometimes leads to gagging
- Breathing difficulties that include shortness of breath
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Reduced appetite and/or noticeable weight gain or loss
- Swelling in the abdomen
IMPORTANT: A heart condition may not be obvious in the early stages. If you are in any doubt about your dog’s health please talk to us today.