Some forms of heart disease in dogs are preventable, and some are not. Either way, a lifetime of wellness will be invaluable to protecting your dog from the long term effects of heart disease. Learn about types of heart disease, what causes these issues, and how to prevent them.
TYPES OF HEART DISEASE IN DOGS, AND THEIR CAUSES
TYPE: Congenital Heart Disease in Dogs
Congenital heart disease means your dog was born with an issue of the heart. Symptoms will almost certainly develop eventually.
Causes of Congenital Heart Disease in Dogs
In the case of congenital heart disease, genetics are primarily to blame. Whether inherited or not, some dogs are simply born with a defect that will lead to heart disease down the line. Just as with humans, it’s impossible to know who will fall ill, or when. A healthy diet, consistent exercise regimen, and overall happy life are all factors that can delay or even prevent the onset of congenital heart disease.
TYPE: Acquired Heart Diseases in Dogs
There are several types of heart disease that aren’t congenital. They will all have a similar effect on your dog, and they’ll present in largely the same way, but they’ll be treated differently by your veterinarian.
Some types of heart disease are more common among small breeds (valvular disease, for example), and other types are more common among larger breeds (like myocardial disease).
Certain infections can lead to heart disease, including heartworms and parvo. These ailments can be very challenging to treat, and if left unattended, can eventually kill your pet.
Causes of Acquired Heart Disease in Dogs
Unlike congenital heart problems, acquired heart diseases can be prevented in a number of ways. Your pet should receive monthly pest prevention for ticks, lice, mosquitoes, and fleas. Ticks can cause Lyme disease and other ailments, which will all tax the heart. Mosquitoes can transmit heartworms, whose long term effects can be devastating to your pet and their heart.
Common Misconception: Heart Murmurs
A heart murmur is not itself a disease of the heart. It may, however, be an indication that something is awry. If a murmur is observed, ask your vet to do a full diagnostic test to rule out a more serious condition. Some vets will recommend a cardiologist perform a checkup on your pet, including an EKG.
SIGNS OF HEART DISEASE IN DOGS
- Persistent Coughing
A primary sign of heart disease in dogs is a cough, especially when paired with shortness of breath or labored breathing. Coughing can indicate other maladies like Lyme disease or kennel cough. If a cough doesn’t resolve over time, or with treatments like antibiotics, consider asking your vet to do a diagnostic test.
- Changes in Behavior
The appearance of depression can indicate an illness. Signs may include resistance to affection, isolation, and tiring easily. If your dog all of the sudden seems to be less happy, get them checked out.
- Weight Change
Weight loss without a change in diet can be indicative of a number of serious canine conditions, including heart disease. Especially if the weight loss is accompanied by a potbellied appearance with a distended belly.
- Other Signs
- Bluish gums, which could indicate that not enough oxygen is in the blood
PREVENTION OF HEART DISEASE IN DOGS
General wellness comes from a quality diet, regular exercise, and a low stress environment stemming from discipline paired with affection. These elements can help to stave off heart disease.
If your dog does develop a heart condition, their overall well being will dictate what sort of quality of life they get to enjoy while they’re convalescing. A healthy pet will fare better than an overweight, stressed out dog.
A lifetime of regular exercise cannot be underestimated. It provides wellness for dogs that nothing else can.
Heart disease is most common in older dogs, and sometimes, despite a lifetime of love and care, dogs just get sick. Caring for our elderly pets is part of the bargain. You can prepare for this eventuality when you’re bringing your sprightly, bright eyed puppy into your family by looking into pet insurance or health plan alternatives.
DIAGNOSES & TREATMENT OF HEART DISEASE IN DOGS
Your veterinarian may employ a series of techniques to determine whether your dog is suffering from heart disease. These tests and procedures may include blood work, a chest x-ray, an ECG, an echocardiogram, and a physical exam in which the vet will feel your dog’s body, listen to their heartbeat with a stethoscope, and check their gums.
Treatment is likely to come in the form of medications, like Vetmedin. Some dogs require blood thinners, others require blood pressure medications, and still others will fare best on simple supplements. Your veterinarian will decide which of a series of different types of medications are best for your dog’s situation. Medication should always be given as per the instructions, and according to veterinary recommendations. Consistency is essential.
In some cases, you may be required to monitor or reduce your dog’s activity level. You’ll also want to be extra aware of their behavior, and take note of any changes in appetite, energy, sleep patterns, or behavior.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.