Arrhythmias are abnormalities in the rhythm of the heartbeat. When the heart has an arrhythmia, it may not be able to pump enough blood to the body.
Factors that increase a dog's risk of developing an arrhythmia include high blood pressure and electrolyte imbalances like hypokalemia (low potassium). Dogs with heart problems or other diseases, such as liver failure, often have trouble regulating their bodily functions, including temperature regulation and blood pressure control, which can also lead to arrhythmias.
An Abnormality In The Rhythm Of The Heartbeat
There are several causes, but most involve changes in the heart's electrical activity. A healthy heart has a natural rhythm that keeps pumping blood to every part of your dog's body. If this rhythm is disrupted, it may result in an abnormal heartbeat or an irregular pulse.
The Heart May Not Be Pumping Enough Blood
If a dog has an arrhythmia, it means that the heart's electrical system has gone haywire. The heart comprises four chambers and is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly by contracting and relaxing. In addition to pumping blood through its chambers, it also acts as an organ for storing oxygenated blood until it's needed.
When the heart has an abnormal rhythm, it may not be able to pump enough blood to the body.
Arrhythmias can cause fainting spells (syncope), weakness, loss of balance, and difficulty breathing, all signs that your dog needs immediate medical attention!
Factors That Increase The Risk Of An Arrhythmia
High blood pressure and electrolyte imbalances increase a dog's risk of developing an arrhythmia. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you think your pet may have an irregular heartbeat. As 3.2% of general reference dogs do have arrhythmias.
Symptoms Of An Arrhythmia
Symptoms of an arrhythmia may include the following:
? Fainting is one of the most common signs of arrhythmia in dogs. When your dog faints, he will lose consciousness and remain still for a few seconds, then return to regular activity within about 15 minutes.
? Weakness or exercise intolerance are also symptoms of an arrhythmia in dogs. Your dog may show weakness or become tired quickly when you play with them or try to walk them around the block.
? Dogs with an arrhythmia may experience difficulty breathing due to a rapid heartbeat placing stress on their lungs and heart muscles.
Treatment Depends On The Type Of Arrhythmia
Treating your dog's arrhythmia will depend on the type and severity of the problem. Pet medications like Vetmedin for dogs or Benazepril are usually prescribed to control heart rate and rhythm. Supplements like Purina Pro Plan may also be necessary. In severe cases, surgery or cardiac ablation may be required.
While medication and supplements can help your dog with arrhythmias, there are other things you can do to reduce the stress on its heart.
? Taurine is an amino acid that helps regulate heart function and is available as a supplement at pet stores. It may be helpful in some cases of dilated cardiomyopathy, although it's not known how much taurine is needed for this purpose. You should discuss giving your dog taurine with your veterinarian before giving him large amounts of long-term supplements.
? Reduce stress on his body by keeping him calm; you can give your pet calming treats for dogs or pet medications like Clomicalm or Adaptil. Avoid taking him for walks or exercising him excessively until he has recovered from his episode of ventricular fibrillation or other extreme symptoms caused by an arrhythmia.
In most cases, arrhythmias in dogs are not dangerous and can be treated with medication or by changing the dog’s diet. If your dog is at risk for arrhythmia, it's important to monitor their heart rate on a regular basis.