heart disease in dogs

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Dogs

Reviewed by Alan Brus, DVM

Heart disease in dogs is a catchall term that can refer to a variety of conditions. It affects your dog’s heart or blood vessels.

Heart disease in dogs is caused by a variety of factors. Aging, obesity, genetics, and nutrition are all factors to consider. 

The most common concern is heart valve disease, which affects small breed dogs over the age of five.

It’s critical to recognize the signs of any heart disease your dog may have early on. Because 95 percent of heart issues in dogs develop as they get older, it’s easier to treat them as soon as they appear.

Types of Heart Disease in Dogs

heart disease in dogs

Heart disease in dogs can be congenital or acquired, with the latter accounting for the vast majority of cases. 

Here are some of the most common disorders or diseases linked to the two forms of heart disease in dogs.

Congenital Conditions

Congenital heart disease conditions are genetic, and can be observed in dogs from birth. 

Congestive Heart Failure in dogs is one of the most common congenital heart defects. When your dog’s heart fails to pump enough blood throughout the body, he or she develops congestive heart failure. 

It can also result in an increase in fluid and pressure inside the heart, which can leak into the lungs and impair your dog’s breathing. It can damage both sides of the heart, and symptoms may not appear for years.

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a disease that damages the heart muscle and impairs the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the vascular system.

It has been linked to genetics, but it can also be caused by variables such as nutrition and infections, according to studies. It can be found in breeds including Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, and Great Danes.

Pulmonic Stenosis is a condition in which blood flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery is obstructed. It can also cause blood flow between the heart and the lungs to be disrupted.

Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Jack Russell Terriers, Samoyeds, Newfoundlands, and Labrador Retrievers are all known to have the condition.

Acquired Conditions

Acquired heart disease conditions are most common in middle-aged and older dogs, and they develop over time as a result of regular wear and tear and aging. 

Valve Disease is one of the most common forms of acquired heart disease in dogs. A common cause of a heart murmur in dogs is a valve disorder. 

The murmur is caused by turbulent blood flow. Murmurs are rated on a scale of one to six. The louder the murmur, the higher the number.

Arrhythmias arise when a defect develops in the electrical system of the dog, interfering with how it instructs the heart to beat.

Pericardial disease occurs when the sac that surrounds the heart fills with fluid, it causes pericardial illness, which affects the dog’s heartbeat.

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Dogs

heart disease in dogs

Heart disease in dogs is similar to many other progressive diseases in that symptoms might take a long time to appear. 

Visit your veterinarian if your dog shows any of the following symptoms or behaviors:

  • Dry cough that comes on after vigorous activity or worsens at night
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue and getting tired quickly   
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Collapsing 
  • Abdomen swelling or bloating 
  • Back leg weakness or paralysis that develops suddenly

Diagnosing Heart Disease in Dogs

heart disease in dogs

If you’re concerned about your dog’s heart illness, you should consult a local pet cardiologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Your vet will start the diagnostic testing by doing a physical exam, by listening to the heart and lungs. They will also check the blood pressure and may need a blood test. 

They also may need to do chest x-rays, or electrocardiograms which can detect heart rhythm abnormalities in your dog by measuring electrical activity in his heart.

And finally, they may need to do an ultrasound to see the heart of your dog in great detail.

Treatment of Heart Disease in Dogs

heart disease in dogs

Because heart disease is a catch-all term for a variety of disorders that impair heart function, treatment options are diverse. 

Depending on the condition and severity, heart disease can be treated or controlled using prescription drugs and supplements, dietary changes, and even surgical intervention.

Your veterinarian is likely to offer an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor, often known as an ACE inhibitor, to assist lower the amount of stress on the heart in many acquired cardiac disorders. 

With proper treatment, your dog can live a better and longer life. 

Heart Disease in Dogs Prevention

heart disease in dogs

There is no foolproof technique to keep dogs from getting heart disease, especially since several common forms are congenital. You may, however, take precautions to ensure that your dog lives a healthy life.

It’s critical to provide your dog with a balanced diet that includes Taurine (an amino acid) and Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil). 

Exercise is also essential for a healthy dog. While every dog needs exercise, if your canine companion has been diagnosed with heart disease, minimize vigorous activity and closely check your dog thereafter.

When to See a Veterinarian

heart disease in dogs

If you notice any of the common signs of heart disease in your dog, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible to help in early diagnosis. 

Early diagnosis of heart problems helps your dog to live a longer and happier life.

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