Heart Disease and Dogs
Dogs At Heart
Many dog owners may not realize that their dogs are vulnerable to heart disease. In the US, veterinarians have reported approximately 3.2 million dogs with some form of heart disease. And many are in heart failure. Estimates show that 15% of dogs in the UK, making it the second most common cause of death after cancer
Heart disease is common in dogs, perhaps as common as it is in humans. While some dogs are born with developmental heart problems, most develop their problems during adulthood or old age. In most cases, heart disease can be successfully managed by early detection and treatment.
Heart disease is basically a weakened heart. Heart disease can lead to heart failure, which is the dog's condition when the heart cannot pump a sufficient amount of blood through the body. And while continuing to work harder to pump blood, further heart damage can occur.
The main causes of heart failure in dogs are MVD, DCM, and CVD.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle. The heart pumps so weakly that blood is distributed efficiently throughout the body. This causes the heart to work even harder, stretching and enlargening it. This is more common in medium to large breeds like Irish Setters, German Shepherds, and Great Danes.
Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is a common form of heart disease in dogs. It occurs when the heart valves (that open and shut to let blood in and out) become leaky, so blood circulation and blood pressure is not running at full steam. The weak circulation actually creates a murmur, that your veterinary surgeon can hear with a stethoscope. MVD generally occurs in small to medium size dogs and is seen more often in older dogs.
Chronic Valvular Heart Disease (CVD) is a condition that occurs when the dog's heart valves thicken and degenerate. this often leads to heart enlargement or heart failure with fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) or the abdomen (ascites). Valvular heart disease is very common and canine heart diseases in adult dogs, it is the main one to look out for.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Heart Disease
Heart failure in dogs tends to show the same general symptoms, no matter what the cause of the failure.
Dogs with mild to moderate heart failure show
- difficulty breathing
- some weakness
- loss of appetite
Severe heart failure is characterized by
- much difficulty breathing even when the dog is just laying
- no tolerance for any exercise
- weight loss
- lack of energy/depression
- swollen abdomen (ascites)
As with many illnesses, you need to have your dog seen by a professional for a proper diagnosis. But you can watch for symptoms, so you don't overlook when something may be wrong. Too often, dog owners do not take their dogs to visit the veterinarian until they are displaying severe signs of heart failure, and by then it may be too late. If heart disease or failure is found, your veterinarian can recommend a schedule of regular visits and discuss a treatment plan that can help.