American Heart Month is a time when we take a moment to focus on our own cardiovascular health, and it’s also a great time to think about how healthy our dog’s hearts are. According to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), more than 10% of dogs in the United States will experience some form of heart disease. Unfortunately, heart problems can be inconspicuous when they begin, so it’s essential for pet owners to know the early signs of cardiac disease in dogs and how AEHV can help if you suspect your dog is suffering from a heart issue.
Heart Disease in Dogs
Like humans, dogs can experience different forms of heart disease, some age-related. In addition, heart disease can either be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (a condition developed over time). For this reason, even puppies and young dogs can suffer from heart disease.
Acquired heart conditions are often the result of genetics or breed predisposition. Others are exacerbated by lifestyle or other health problems like obesity. While we cannot prevent some heart conditions, dogs can still live long and happy lives with early detection, careful disease management, and appropriate lifestyle changes.
Common Heart Conditions in Dogs
When discussing heart disease, we aren’t just talking about one specific problem. Instead, heart disease encompasses many heart-related conditions that can affect your dog. Here are some of the most common:
Congenital heart disease – Some dogs are born with heart abnormalities, so regular veterinary care for puppies and young dogs is critical. Veterinary medicine has many successful ways to treat congenital heart disease, including surgery.
Valvular disease – The heart has four valves that keep the blood flowing in the proper direction. Wear and tear on the valves or bacterial infections can cause the valves not to work correctly, allowing blood to “leak” into the wrong place. As this disease progresses, it can lead to congestive heart failure. Older small breed dogs, like Chihuahuas and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are prone to degenerative valvular disease.
Myocarditis – Myocarditis is a disease that causes the heart muscle to swell. Unfortunately, myocarditis in dogs often has no symptoms until it causes heart failure.
Cardiomyopathies – Problems with the heart muscle can affect how well or often the heart contracts, inhibiting the heart’s ability to adequately pump blood throughout the body. There are several types of cardiomyopathy and this problem is usually breed related. Commonly affected breeds include Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Dobermans, Great Danes, and Cocker Spaniels.
Heartworm disease – Heartworms enter your dog’s bloodstream through a mosquito bite, and the larvae grow and develop in the heart and lungs of your dog, eventually causing severe damage, discomfort, and finally, organ failure and death if untreated. Luckily, your family veterinarian can prescribe preventives to keep your dog safe from these parasites year-round.
Heart Failure in Dogs
Heart failure is not a disease in and of itself, but rather the result of untreated or the progression of heart disease. When the heart can no longer adequately pump blood throughout your dog’s body, they are said to be in heart failure. This condition often requires emergency veterinary intervention, so if you suspect heart failure in your dog, come to our emergency hospital immediately.
Signs of Heart Disease in Dogs
Some common signs and symptoms of heart disease in dogs include:
- Bloated/distended abdomen
- Change in heart rate
- Collapse or fainting
- Exercise intolerance
- Heart murmur
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or lethargy
- Weight loss
If you notice any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care veterinarian who can help determine if heart murmurs or an arrhythmia is at play.
How AEHV Can Help
As with any disease, early detection and diagnosis is vital for the best health outcomes for your pet. Our emergency hospital offers advanced diagnostic tools, including digital radiography (x-rays of the heart), electrocardiography (measures electrical activity of the heart), echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart), as well as CT Scan capabilities to help understand how your pet’s heart is functioning.
Should you have any questions regarding your pet’s heart health or have reason to believe your pet may be experiencing a medical emergency, please call our team at 386-252-0206. We’re here for you 24/7/365.