The Heart of the Matter: Understanding Heart Disease in Dogs
If your dog is the most big-hearted pet you know, you’re not alone. Our dogs are the heartbeat of the entire family and provide unconditional love and loyalty. But did you know that heart disease in dogs is diagnosed more than you might think. In fact, it is estimated that up to 10% of all dogs who are over 7 years of age have some form of a heart condition.
Heart disease accounts for a big portion of senior pet problems, although some conditions can also appear in younger dogs, too. It’s important to understand this disease that affects millions of dogs each year and the team at Highway Veterinary Hospital is here to tell you more.
What Is Heart Disease in Dogs?
The heart is one of the most important organs of the body that is responsible for pumping nutrients and oxygen through the vascular system. When the heart is compromised, it is unable to effectively do this which results in a cascade of problems, most notably a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen.
There are many types of heart disease, but most affect either the muscles of the heart or the valves. Other forms of heart disease include arrhythmias and heart rhythm abnormalities. Heart disease in dogs can be caused by a genetic predisposition, congenital heart disease (occurred at birth), or a physical trigger like hyperthyroidism.
The Signs of Heart Disease
The symptoms of heart disease in dogs can be subtle at first and more pronounced as it advances into congestive heart failure. If your pet has developed clinical signs of heart disease, it can appear as:
- Restless sleep
- Lack of interest in exercise
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Distended abdomen
Since signs usually don’t develop until your pet’s condition has progressed, your best bet in catching heart disease early is through annual examinations. Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing as they age to get a better sense of heart and lung health.
Treatment and At Home Care
Depending on the type of heart disease, many pets will continue to live a normal life with some lifestyle changes and medications that can help the heart. There is no cure for heart disease and congestive heart failure to date, but your pet can be helped through managing their medications, wellness checkups and testing, and at home care.
Unlike some diseases like diabetes, most heart conditions cannot be prevented. What you can do is help your pet live a better life by continuing to provide excellent nutrition as recommended by your vet, keep them at a healthy weight, and offer low impact exercise to keep them engaged and socialized.
If you would like more information on heart disease in dogs, or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced veterinarians, please call us. We are here to improve our pet patients heart and care for their wonderful, loveable selves.