Matters of the Heart

What do you need to know about heart disease 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.

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 dog food and advice from your veterinarian, your dog can continue to enjoy a happy, active life.

What causes heart disease?
Although there is no single cause, nutritional problems can play a major role in heart conditions. Aging is the most common reason dogs develop heart conditions, but other factors like heartworm can also lead to heart disease.

  • 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 miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, Pomeranians and schnauzers. Myocardial disease is more common in large and giant breeds like Great Danes and Irish wolfhounds.

How can I recognize the symptoms?
Early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference when it comes to heart disease and your dog. As a dog-owner, you should be aware of the signs of heart disease so that you can bring it to your veterinarian’s attention as soon as possible.

Here are the most common symptoms of heart disease:
1. Coughing is a very common symptom of many illnesses, one of those being heart disease. Minor coughs will not last more
than a few days. If after three days your dog is still coughing, or is experiencing other symptoms, seek veterinary care.
2. Difficulty Breathing: Changes in breathing relating to heart disease may include difficulty breathing due to shortness of breath, labored breathing, or rapid breathing.
3. Changes in Behavior: If you notice behavior changes in your dog, such as tiring more easily, being less playful, reluctance to exercise, reluctance to accept affection, being withdrawn, or an appearance of depression, these are all signs of heart disease.
4. Weight Loss or Gain: Weight loss is definitely a symptom of heart disease, though weight gain can be as well. More likely than weight gain is a bloated or distended abdomen, giving your dog a potbellied appearance.
5. Fainting/Collapsing: If your dog faints or collapses at any time, seek veterinary help. It may be a sign of many different serious
illnesses, heart disease being one of them.
6. Restlessness: If your dog gets restless, especially at night, it may have heart disease.
7. Edema/Swelling: Edema is the swelling of body tissues. In regards to heart disease, your dog may show swelling in the abdomen and extremities if it has heart disease.

Important: A heart condition may not be obvious in the early stages. If you are in any doubt about your dog’s health or you notice any of the symptoms above, consult your veterinarian.

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