Recognising and understanding the early warning signs of canine heart problems can be life-saving.
Your dog's heart is responsible for pumping blood to all body parts. It goes without saying, heart problems in dogs are not something to take a chance with. If you see some of the signs and symptoms mentioned in this guide, get your dog checked out by a vet as soon as possible.
A dog's heart is located in the left side of his chest, behind his ribs. It's made up of four chambers, none of which contain a pump (as humans do).
The heart has valves that keep the blood flowing in the right direction between the chambers. A bulge on one side is called a 'ventricle'. When it contracts and pumps blood into the lungs or another part of the body, it's called a 'pulmonary' pulse.
Fast Facts About Your Dog's Heart
- A dog's heart beats between 70 and 120 times a minute, compared to a human heart, which beats 70 to 80 times a minute.1
- On average, a dog’s heart beats 144,000 times per day.
In this micro-guide, we'll take a look at some of the key things you need to understand about your dog's heart; how you can spot early warning signs of heart problems and learn about some of the common heart problems that can affect dogs at any age.
The aim of our micro-guides is to give dog owners a rapid overview of a topic so you are better informed about a topic without having to digest thousands of pages of text books. One tip picked up here could be life changing or life saving.
Common heart problems affecting dogs
This condition is quite common in young dogs and is caused by the heart beating too fast, which puts a burden on the heart muscle. It can be life-threatening because of the strain placed on the heart muscle and will only get worse if left untreated. The dog will suffer from symptoms such as shortness of breath, panting, increased heart rate, weakness and fainting.
Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease in dogs can be caused by a buildup of fatty substances around the heart. The condition can lead to an enlargement of the heart and may result in a heart attack. Symptoms include rapid heartbeat, coughing, loss of appetite, chest pain and a deathly pallor.
This is when one or more chambers in the heart become inflamed by an infection. Symptoms vary from mild to severe and may include stiffness and lack of coordination through to difficulty breathing.
Degenerative valve disease
Heart valve leaks mostly affect older or middle-aged dogs.
Heart murmurs in dogs are something that would rightly cause great concern for any owner whose beloved canine pal has been recently diagnosed with. If your dog has been diagnosed with a common heart murmur problem, it may be a sign of canine cardiac disease. Treatment for heart murmurs in dogs exist, if properly diagnosed and detected in a timely fashion as experts told us.
A heart murmur results from blood flow running through the heart that is abnormal. Some heart murmurs are perfectly normal while others, similar to those heard in ageing dogs, may be a sign that some type of heart disease is prevalent.
How dog heart problems are diagnosed
Early diagnosis is important as, some surgery performed at an early stage can be curative. Early intervention can prevent sudden death or damage caused that may impact on the dog's quality of life in the long term.
"Early detection is crucial but treatment is viable if detected in time and given the proper surgical or medicinal intervention by a vet."
Canine cardiac disease can be investigated by a veterinarian looking at:
- your dog's breed type
- chest x-rays
- blood pressure measurements
- EKG readings
For a definitive diagnosis, an ultrasound of your dog's heart is required
Ultrasound examination of a dog's heart
Treatment for heart disease in dogs
Getting your dog back to good health with treatment will depend entirely upon the stage of the disease and how severely it has affected other parts of the body.
If your puppy is young and has a congenital defect, surgical intervention may be recommended as the best approach.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons say that successful canine heart surgery has been delivered with the following interventions:
- Correction of Pulmonic Stenosis
- Correction of Double-Chambered Right Ventricle
- Correction of Atrial Septal Defect
- Correction of Ventricular Septal Defect
- Correction of Atrioventricular Septal Defect
- Correction of Tetralogy of Fallot
- Mitral and Tricuspid Valve Repair
Heart disease that is acquired later in your dog's life requires heavy lifestyle management and changes in living.
Such changes include maintaining a healthy body weight, additional exercise (or reduced activity depending upon your dog's condition), special cardiac diets, and specific medications that can be used to reduce stress put on your dog's heart from his condition.
What is the prognosis for dogs with heart disease?
For every owner, ensuring your dog's heart is healthy is something you can do via regular vet check ups, observing your dog's day to day behaviour, paying particular attention to their energy and activity levels and providing the best nutrition for your dog's age, breed type and lifestyle.
Having a dog diagnosed with a heart murmur or other heart problem is not necessarily the end of the world.
Modern veterinary treatment and medicinal intervention can provide your dog with a management approach to this condition. The key is to be vigilant and make sure your dog receives the best medical attention possible.
Dog insurance is a good investment for any dog owner, but particularly those who own breeds susceptible to congenital health problems. Remember, you'll be unlikely to get insurance to cover a heart condition if your dog is diagnosed with a heart problem before you've purchased the pet insurance cover.
Important: This guide does not constitute veterinary advice. You should always speak with a qualified canine health care professional if you spot any worrying signs about your dog's health.