Heart disease is very common in dogs, just like it is in humans. The veterinarians at Kay Animal Hospital discuss some of the most common causes, symptoms, and treatment options for dogs with heart disease in this post.
Heart Disease in Dogs
The heart is a vital organ, and any disease affecting it is likely to have negative consequences for other organs as well. Unfortunately, heart disease is often difficult to detect until it has progressed to a later, more severe stage, but there are some warning signs and symptoms that dog owners should be aware of. It's also worth noting that certain breeds are more susceptible to heart disease than others. Before buying a dog, do some research on breed-specific issues to ensure you're ready to deal with any potential health issues.
Types of Heart Disease
There are several different types of heart disease that affect dogs. Here are some of the most common:
Valvular Disease - The valves of the heart are affected by valvular disease. The valves are small flaps of tissue that act as doors between the heart chambers, preventing blood from flowing backward. The valves in a dog with the valvular disease don't work as they should, causing problems with blood flow throughout the body. Older small breed dogs, such as Chihuahuas and King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, are prone to degenerative valvular disease.
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy - Because it affects almost exclusively boxers, this disease is also known as Boxer cardiomyopathy. Because of a change in the muscle in the right ventricle of the heart, this disease causes the heart to beat abnormally fast. Because of the irregular heartbeat, the heart is unable to adequately pump blood throughout the body.
Heartworm Disease - Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos. Heartworm larvae grow and develop into worms that live and reproduce in the heart and lungs of your dog, causing severe discomfort and eventually organ failure. Heartworm disease can be avoided with the use of widely available heartworm prevention drugs.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) - The heart of a dog with DCM loses its ability to efficiently pump blood throughout the body. This is a common disease that can go unnoticed for a long time. Older large breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, and Doberman Pinschers, are prone to DCM.
Myocarditis - Myocarditis is a heart disease that causes the heart muscle to swell in dogs. Myocarditis often has no symptoms until it is severe enough to cause heart failure.
Congenital Abnormalities - Congenital abnormalities are defects in the heart that a dog is born with. There are many different types of congenital abnormalities.
Heart Failure in Dogs
Heart failure is not a disease in and of itself, but rather the result of an untreated or untreatable heart condition. When the heart can no longer adequately pump blood throughout the body, it is called heart failure.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
Heart disease is often difficult to detect until it has progressed to a more advanced stage. Bringing your pet in for routine exams is one of the most effective ways to detect heart disease early. Your veterinarian may be able to detect early signs of heart disease that even the most conscientious pet owner might overlook. The following are some of the most common heart disease symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Distended or bloated abdomen
- Pale or blue gums
Treatment of Heart Disease in Dogs
The underlying cause of heart disease in dogs must be addressed before treatment can begin. Birth defects, heartworm infection, other bacteria or viral infections, toxins, mineral deficiencies, and tumors are all potential causes of heart disease. Once heart disease has been diagnosed, a treatment plan tailored to your dog's specific type of heart disease will be discussed.
Many types of heart disease require life-long monitoring with frequent internal testing and medications. Some heart diseases, such as congenital defects, can be corrected by surgery.
Preventing Heart Disease in Dogs
Heart disease can be difficult to prevent. Sometimes you can do everything right and your dog could still be diagnosed with heart disease.
Some things you can control are:
- Buying from a reputable breeder who is testing the dogs they are breeding for genetic heart conditions
- Avoiding breeds prone to heart disease
- Keeping your dog on preventive heartworm medication
- Feeding your dog quality dog food—you can discuss with your vet the best diet for your particular dog
- Avoiding exposure to toxins and contaminated areas
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.