Heart Disease in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Dogs form an essential part of our lives because they provide us with security, companionship, and emotional support. In turn, we need to ensure that they are kept healthy like other family members by treating them whenever they fall sick. Heart diseases are among the prevalent conditions that affect the well-being of our dogs.

So as a pet owner, you need to have sufficient knowledge on how to take care of your dog. Studies indicate that about 10% of all dogs in the United States suffer from heart disease, and approximately 75% of older dogs suffer from some heart conditions that go unnoticed. In this article, we have compiled everything about various diseases in dogs, their causes, and signs to watch out for.

Most importantly, you are going to learn about the available treatments and prevention techniques of heart disease in dogs.

What is Heart Disease in Dogs?

In a nutshell, heart diseases in dogs are conditions that affect the normal functioning of your dog's heart. Heart disease may impact both sides or one side of the heart. The condition can advance steadily and may take years to discover.

What Causes Heart Disease in Dogs and How to Detect it

The specific cause of cardiac disease in dogs is not well known. Obesity, aging, breed, and diet can all be of significance in the prevalence. Valve complications are the most serious condition that usually involves small breed dogs five years of age or older. Some common heart conditions in dogs include:

Congestive Heart Failure

This is a congenital disease that causes the inability of the heart to pump sufficient blood to the rest of the body leading to an increase in pressure and fluids buildup in the heart. The fluids can leak into the dog's lungs and cause swelling, leading to coughing and breathing difficulty. Other signs to look out for include:
  • Difficulty in settling,
  • Body weakness -collapsing as a result of poor blood flow to the brain,
  • Swollen abdomen from fluid buildup,
  • Loss of weight due to loss of healthy fats, and
  • Change in the color of the dog's tongue or gum color to bluish-gray due to insufficient oxygen.
This infection is mainly inherited from the parent dogs but can also be caused by injury, poor nutrition, and old age. As the dog grows older, the organ becomes weak and susceptible to infections. Once you suspect that your dog is suffering from congestive heart failure, it is good to visit a veterinarian. They will conduct some of the following tests and prescribe appropriate treatment:
  • X-ray tests to check your dog's internal tissue and identify the exact areas affected.
  • A blood and urine test to find out the cause of the heart's malfunction.
  • Heartworm antigen test where the vet will test your dog's blood to find out any heartworm presence causing heart failure.
  • An electrocardiogram test to identify any abnormality in the breathing system of your dog.
  • An ultrasound test to examine the shape, size, and movement.
  • And a Holter monitor, which will be tapped at your dog's chest for a day or two to monitor the rate of heartbeat and rhythm to find out any abnormality.

Depending on your dog's heart disease severity, your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate medication to restore the heart's normal function and prevent future buildup of fluids in the lungs. The specialist will also prescribe the best supplements, including taurine to support brain development and carnitine to help turn fats into energy. Frequent exercise to improve the capacity to pump blood throughout the body efficiently will also be recommended. But if the condition worsens or is already worse, surgery can be recommended to correct the pacemaker. It is important to take him or her for regular checkups to detect the disease early.

dog heart health

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy

This condition affects the cardiac muscles of your dog and reduces the capability to produce adequate pressure to pump blood throughout the vascular system. Its causes are unclear, but some studies show that it is caused by the parent dog's poor nutrition and genetic predisposition. Frequent collapsing, weakness, weight loss, increased respiratory rate, and coughing are some of the signs your dog will display while suffering from this condition. Your veterinarian will conduct the following tests to diagnose your dog:
  • Echocardiography- to monitor how the heart functions and any potential blood clotting in the heart chambers.
  • Thoracic radiography to examine the lungs to find out any evidence of fluid buildup.
  • Electrocardiography to detect any abnormality in the functioning of your dog's heartbeat.

Once the problem is detected, the doctor will design medication to enhance the normal functioning of the heart by removing pulmonary congestion, controlling heart rate and cardiac arrhythmias, and widening the peripheral blood vessels to reduce ventricular workload.

Pulmonic Stenosis

This condition blocks the blood flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery and affects blood flow between the lungs and the heart. Pulmonic stenosis is a complex one as it doesn't show any signs till it gets severe among dogs like Boston, Bulldogs, and Samoyeds. It is also common among other breeds, including Boxers, Newfoundlands, Labrador Retrievers, and Jack Russell Terriers. Exhaustion and collapsing are some of the signs you will notice from your dog. There is no treatment for this condition, but your medic can come up with ways to control it and live with it.

Canine Valvular Disease

It occurs when the heart valves weaken and begin to leak. This disorder will affect your dog after the age of 8 years. Small breeds like Miniature poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Maltese, Chihuahua, and Miniature Schnauzers are the most susceptible. Some of the signs that will help you notice your dog has contracted the disease include difficulty in breathing, coughing, intolerance to exercise, collapsing, and high breathing rate. During treatment, your vet will use a device known as a stethoscope to hear a cardiac murmur from the chest to detect any defect and design appropriate medication.

How to Prevent Heart Disease in Dogs

There are no clear ways of preventing these diseases since most of them are hereditary from the breed's predisposition. But you can take your dog for regular checkups to help detect any developing illness for early treatment. Always feed your dog with the correct diet and have regular exercises to enhance the heart's function. If your canine friend is diagnosed with heart disease, don't panic, some conditions are manageable. Just avoid strenuous activities, be more attentive, and have your vet on call in case of anything.
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  • "The animals are our children. They deserve the same quality food as our two-legged children."
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  • "These blessed creatures are giving you unconditional love. Feeding them healthy, pure organic food is not much to ask in return."
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