Heart Disease in Dogs - Symptoms, Prevention, Diagnosis & Cure

Only a few pet owners realize that animals, alike humans, can suffer from heart disease. Since there have been less research and studies in animal health, many of the reasons and cure for animal heart disease are still unknown.

Statistics show that 10% of all dogs in the US have heart disease. Sometimes it can be mild but most of the time it is deadly. It's more common in small breed dogs of over 5 years of age. 13% of heart disease patients are suffering from heartworm disease.


Heart Disease and Heart Condition in Dogs

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is a common form of illness in canine. Though heart disease can include many different types of conditions, most or every form of heart disease can ultimately lead to heart failure.

Heartworm is one of the common heart diseases among most dogs. Known as Dirofilaria Immitis, the heartworm or dog heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that looks like a small thread-like creature. It spreads from the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no simple way to tell if the mosquito is infected, hence, every dog must be prevented from heartworm.

Heartworm disease causes 13% of heart disease even though it is entirely preventable.

There are mainly two main types of heart conditions in dogs.

Chronic Valvular Disease is caused by a leaking heart valve which reduces the quantity of blood supplied or pumped throughout the body.

Myocardial Disease is a condition leading to weakness or thickening of the heart muscle. A dog’s heart is less efficient to pump out blood.


What Causes Heart Disease in Dogs?

Heart disease in dogs can be caused by numerous physiological reasons. Nutrition, age, fitness, and breed type, all play an important role. The onset of heartworm can also lead to heart disease which can be cured by medication.

Some of the common factors of heart disease in dogs are;

Fitness: An overweight or obese dog is more likely to develop congestive heart failure (CHF) and other forms of heart disease.

Age: An aging dog is more likely to encounter heart conditions compared to a younger dog. Nutrition and fitness play an important role in aging dogs.

Breed: Chronic valvular disease is more common in small dog breeds such as miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, Pomeranians, and schnauzers. It makes up 70-75% of heart disease in dogs. The myocardial disease remains common in large and giant breeds like Great Danes and Irish wolfhounds. Also known as dilated cardiomyopathy, it makes up 8% of heart disease and primarily affects large breed dogs of all ages

What are the Symptoms of Heart Disease in Dogs?

The signs or symptoms may vary depending on the type of disease and severity in dogs. Eventually, heart disease progresses to congestive heart failure.

  • Fatigue
  • Fainting or collapsing
  • Frequent coughing
  • Difficulty in breathing, including shortness of breath
  • Reduced ability to walk or exercise
  • Reduced appetite and/or noticeable weight gain or loss
  • A distended abdomen
  • Trouble sleeping

What Breeds of dogs are More Prone to Heart Disease?

Some breeds are more prone to heart disease than others. The list includes;

  1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  2. Dachshunds
  3. Miniature and Toy Poodles
  4. Doberman Pinschers
  5. Boxers
  6. Golden Retrievers
  7. Miniature Schnauzers

How long can Dogs live with Enlarged Heart?

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle that is characterized by an enlarged heart that does not function properly. In general, dogs with an enlarged heart can give for 6-24 months unless they are treated on time.

Can a dog live with heart disease?

If the disease is caught at an early stage, dogs with heart disease can be treated and often will live for many years after the diagnosis. If the disease is at a severe level that a pet's quality of life is no longer satisfactory, then they may not be able to survive a long time.

Stages of Heart Failure in Dogs

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a term that refers to the heart's inability to pump adequate blood to the body. The stages of heart failure in dogs begin from signs of early heart failure onset. The age, nutrition, and fitness will define the early stage. The other stage includes the onset of heart failure. The final stage includes the advancement of heart failure that may lead to the death of the dog.


Prevention from Heart Disease for Dogs

The prevention of heart disease basically includes

  • Whole-body screening
  • Checking nutritional value
  • Regular exercise
  • Checking for any heart-related diseases such as heartworm.

dog arterial circulation

Diagnosis of Heart Disease in Dogs

The diagnosis will help to catch the chances of heart disease at its onset. It's mandatory that you take your dog to the Vet immediately.

The diagnosis of heart disease include;

  • Auscultation or listening to the heart is the first step in diagnosing heart disease includes listening to an abnormality in the heart such as heart murmurs. The location of the murmur and heart rhythm is assessed followed by palpating or feeling the pulse to determine its strength and rhythm.
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) measures the electrical activity of the heart and allows accurate determination of both heart rate and rhythm.
  • The lungs are checked to look for evidence of changes associated with heart failure.
  • Next, the chest X-rays are taken to evaluate the size and shape of the heart and look for lung changes such as the presence of fluid.
  • Blood and urine tests are performed to ascertain any other disorders in the body. Liver and kidney function is often impaired in patients with heart disease.
  • Ultrasound examination (echocardiogram) uses ultrasound waves to evaluate the heart. The size and thickness of each heart chamber are evaluated, and the effectiveness of the heart's contractions is directly observed.

What are the cures for Heart Disease in Dogs?

Dogs with heart disease are treated in either of the two ways: Conventional therapy or Pimobendan. The method of treatment may depend on the practice of the vet.

A study, however, has shown that Pimobendan cures the heart better than conventional therapy. It is a veterinary medication, a calcium sensitizer and a selective inhibitor of phosphodiesterase 3 with positive inotropic and vasodilator effects. Pimobendan is used in the management of heart failure in dogs

The treatments for heart failures include;

  • Medications to help the heart work and correct irregular heartbeats
  • Medications to slow fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Surgery to correct a torn valve or to insert a pacemaker to correct the heartbeat
  • A commercial or prescription low-salt diet to help decrease fluid build-up in your dog's body
  • Limited activity or exercise to manage weight without putting too much strain on your dog's heart

 In fact, it is estimated that 7.8 million dogs in the United States have heart disease. That means approximately 10% of all dogs in the United States have heart disease.

Urban Pet Hospital & Resort is a premier pet hospital in Des Moines specializing in diagnosing and treating heart diseases in pets. If your dog or cat seems to show any sign of heart disease and heart failure, you must immediately consult with pet medical service in Des Moines.

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