No matter how you look at it, the heart is an important organ. When it isn’t functioning correctly, problems abound. Unfortunately, heart disease in dogs is a fairly common problem that we diagnose here at Summeridge Animal Clinic, but we want you to know that we are here to help you and your pup by raising awareness of heart disease and its treatment.
Signs of Heart Disease in Dogs
You may be familiar with heart disease in people; however, most of our clients don’t realize that the types of problems humans experience are not often the sames causes of heart disease in dogs. In fact, heart attacks and strokes are relatively unheard of in the canine species.
Pets who are affected by heart issues often have more chronic symptoms. Signs that a dog may have a cardiac problem can include:
- Intolerance to exercise
- Heavy or fast breathing at rest
- Fainting spells
- Gray or bluish gums
- Decreased appetite
- Enlarged abdomen
Of course, these symptoms can be seen with other disease processes as well. If your pet is exhibiting any of them, it is important to contact us right away so that we can get to the bottom of what is going on.
Types of Trouble
So, if our animals aren’t having heart attacks, what types of heart conditions in pets actually do happen?
Most pet heart problems are caused by:
Heartworm disease – Infection with the heartworm parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, is serious business. Heartworms are transmitted from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Once mature, they reside in the heart and blood vessels. This causes damage that ultimately leads to cardiac failure.
Valvular disease – Inside the heart muscle itself, there are four separate chambers that act to control blood flow. Between each chamber is a valve. These valves are important to keep the blood flowing in the appropriate direction. Anything that impairs the function of these valves can lead to cardiac compromise.
Cardiomyopathies – Conditions which affect the muscle tissue of the heart can have a dramatic impact on cardiac function.
Congenital heart problems – Congenital problems are problems of development that a pet is born with. These can include defects in the heart itself or developmental issues like patent ductus arteriosus, in which a fetal structure fails to close at birth.
Hypertension – High blood pressure is a cardiovascular problem that we can diagnose in animals. It is often secondary to other disease processes. If not treated, high blood pressure can lead to serious complications, including loss of vision, kidney failure, or stroke.
Heart disease in pets often leads to congestive heart failure, a condition in which fluid leaks into the lungs and/or abdomen secondary to inefficient blood flow. This results in most of the symptoms seen when a pet is experiencing heart issues.
What You Can Do
As a pet owner, you may be wondering what you can do to help battle heart disease in your pet. Fortunately, there are many actions that you can take to help prevent or minimize the impact of cardiac issues for your dog. These include:
- Keeping your pet on a heartworm preventative as prescribed
- Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight
- Providing regular exercise
- Maintaining good dental health to avoid heart valve compromise
- Knowing if you have a breed that might be at increased risk for heart issues
- Maintaining regular wellness visits so that potential problems can be detected early
- Letting us know right away if you think your pet may be having problems
As with so many issues that affect our pets, the earlier we diagnose a cardiovascular issue, the more effective our treatments tend to be. Some pets with heart issues may need surgery or specific therapies, while others require medical management.
No matter what the cause of heart disease in our canine companions, it is serious business. Be sure to let us know immediately if you have questions about your pet’s cardiac health. It is, after all, the heart of your pet’s life.