Heart disease in dogs is common. Dogs with heart disease and heart failure may cough, tire easily, and have a loss of appetite. Learn to recognize the signs of heart problems in dogs, various causes, diagnostic and treatment options, and how to manage your heart patient dog at home.
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Causes of Heart Disease in Dogs
Heart disease in dogs is commonly encountered. There are many potential causes of canine heart disease and, depending on the severity of the disease, any form of heart disease can lead to heart failure.
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Signs of heart disease in dogs can vary, depending on the type and severity. Sometimes there may be no symptoms at all. When symptoms are present, they may include coughing, exercise intolerance, and passing out. Heart failure is a common complication of heart disease in dogs. Though canine heart disease includes many different types of conditions, all forms of heart disease can ultimately cause heart failure.
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Diagnosing heart disease and/or heart failure in dogs and cats requires a combination of several different testing methods. A physical exam can often pick up a heart murmur (the sound of blood moving turbulently through the heart) or arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). An ECG and imaging tests such as X-rays or an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) may be required to determine the exact type of heart disease or the presence of heart failure.
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Many different drugs are used to treat heart disease and heart failure in dogs and cats. The medications chosen will depend on the type of heart disease present, the overall health of your dog or cat, and the severity of the heart disease. Some forms of heart disease may require surgery, but this is uncommon.
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Dogs that have heart disease need special care and monitoring at home. Proper care and monitoring of your dog at home can help delay the onset of heart failure and help alert you if your pet's condition worsens. Your veterinarian can help you know what signs to monitor for.
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Is Heart Disease the Same as Heart Failure?
Heart disease is commonly diagnosed in both dogs and cats and the diagnosis can be disturbing and confusing for pet owners. Heart failure is a condition that can occur due to severe heart disease. Not all dogs that have heart disease will develop heart failure. The differences between heart disease and heart failure are important to recognize.
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Heart Murmurs in Dogs
Typically, the normal dog heart makes a characteristic lub-dub sound as the heartbeats. When a heart murmur is present, there will be an abnormal whooshing or swishing noise made during the beat, rather than a crisp lub-dub sound. This sound is caused by abnormal blood flow through the heart. Not all dogs with heart disease will have a murmur.
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Intro to Valvular Heart Disease in Dogs
One of the most common types of heart disease seen in dogs is degenerative valvular disease, where the heart valves become thickened and start to leak, causing blood flow to back up. It is estimated that degenerative valve disease accounts for approximately 75 percent of all heart disease in dogs.
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Valvular Heart Disease: Diagnosis and Monitoring
A proper diagnosis of any illness begins with a thorough physical examination and history. A presumptive diagnosis of a valvular disease can often be made this way, however other testing, such as an echocardiogram, is required for a definitive diagnosis.
Dogs diagnosed with degenerative heart valve disease need to be monitored for progress or worsening of the disease. While your veterinarian will want to continue to monitor your dog with periodic examinations and radiographs of the chest, you should also monitor your dog at home for symptoms such as coughing, increased breathing rate at rest, and exercise intolerance.
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Degenerative Valve Disease: Treatment
Currently, there are no drugs available that can stop the progress of heart disease. Some veterinarians feel that some of the medications available can slow the progress of the disease. However, in most cases, the primary reason for treatment is to control the signs of congestive heart failure.
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Heart disease in dogs is a common complaint. The most common cause of canine heart disease is the degeneration of the valves within the heart.
The valve that is most commonly affected is the mitral valve. The mitral valve is the valve that is on the left side of the heart.
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While disease of the mitral valve (the valve located on the left side of the heart between the atrium and the ventricle) is the most common form of valvular disease in dogs, disease of the tricuspid valve (the valve on the right side of the heart) is sometimes seen as well.
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Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) essentially means that the muscle of the heart is diseased. In dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart is unable to contract effectively, which results in the heart being unable to pump the blood normally through the body.
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Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Screening and Diagnosis
One of the most common causes of dilated cardiomyopathy is a genetic mutation. As a result, screening a dog who belongs to a high-risk breed is often desirable. The process is not as simple as it might sound, since evidence of the disease may not show up until later in life. Most dogs with this condition have no symptoms until the disease is very advanced, and since heart murmurs are rare in DCM, it can not usually be detected on physical exam.
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DCM in dogs is by definition a disease of the muscle of the heart. Essentially, the muscle of the ventricle of the heart becomes weakened and is not able to contract normally. This inability to contract eventually leads to heart failure.
Some breeds of dogs are more prone to have dilated cardiomyopathy than other breeds. Dietary deficiencies, drugs, and infectious diseases are also possible causes of this condition.
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Several medications are regularly used to treat dogs suffering from heart disease and/or heart disease as a result of dilated cardiomyopathy.
The prognosis for dogs diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy depends on many different factors. These factors include the breed of dog, the specific type of dilated cardiomyopathy that is involved, and the severity of existing clinical signs.
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Signs of heartworm disease are caused by damage to the heart and blood vessels to the lungs, as a result of the heartworms living in them. Also, the body's attempt to rid itself of the worms results in chronic immune stimulation, which further inflames the lungs and complicates the disease.