Heart disease is one of the most common diseases in dogs, and it’s important to get your dog checked out if he or she starts showing any signs of the disease. Veterinarians can perform tests to see if your dog has heart disease, and they can prescribe treatments to help your dog deal with the condition. Keep reading to learn more about how veterinarians can help your dog with heart disease.
Dr. Barret Bulmer is one of the veterinarians at the University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital who specialize in treating heart diseases of pets. “The size of the pet, the species, and the clinical signs help us identify the specific kind of heart disease,” explains Dr. Bulmer.
Dog with Heart Disease
“In middle-aged to older, small breed dogs, the most common heart disease is mitral regurgitation caused by changes in the valve apparatus,” says Dr. Bulmer. With moderate valvular disease, dogs may cough, have trouble exercising, and be short of breath. If the disease progresses, your dog may have decreased appetite, excessive weakness, or “fainting” spells.
In large breed dogs, the most common type of heart disease is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) with or without atrial fibrillation. Doberman pinschers and boxers appear to be especially prone to this disease. The signs seen in these dogs and the treatments administered are similar to those seen in mitral regurgitation. “In DCM, failure of the heart muscle leads to reduced output of blood and congestive heart failure,” explains Dr. Bulmer. “Fluid may accumulate in the abdomen, causing a bloated appearance. Alternatively, fluid may accumulate in the lungs, causing coughing or respiratory distress.”
The most common heart disease of cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). In HCM, the walls of the ventricle become thick and stiffen, which makes it difficult for blood to fill the ventricle. Heart enlargement and subsequent congestive heart failure may follow. Cats may also develop heart disease from other disease processes in the body including hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, or hypertension. All of these conditions may result in left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), similar to HCM.
To diagnose heart disease, veterinarians use a variety of imaging modalities, such as radiography (X ray) or echocardiography. This permits them to look for abnormalities of the heart valves, enlargement of specific parts of the heart, or other disease-related changes in size and function. Veterinarians also use ECGs to diagnose abnormal rhythms or electrical disturbances in the heart. These diagnostic methods help veterinarians determine the severity of the disease, appropriate therapeutic regimen, and the prognosis for your pet.
“The recommended treatment depends on the stage of the disease,” says Dr. Bulmer. “Your veterinarian may recommend a diuretic to help reduce fluid accumulation in the lungs, vasodilators to decrease blood pressure and workload on the heart, or anti-arrhythmics that help control abnormal heart rhythms and improve heart function.” In some cases your pet may need heart surgery or even a pacemaker to correct heart dysfunction. Helping your pet deal with heart disease may also include a change in diet, reduction in physical activity, and minimization of stress.
If you suspect your pet may have heart problems, contact your local veterinarian. If problems persist, board-certified veterinary heart specialists are available for consultations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can help a dog with heart disease?
Medications that aid in the function of the heart and fix irregular heartbeats. Medications that reduce the accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Surgery to repair a damaged valve or the implantation of a pacemaker to regulate heart rate. Reduce fluid build-up in your dog’s body using a commercial or prescription low-salt diet.
Can I reverse my dogs heart disease?
Your dog can live a very normal life despite the fact that there are no medicines that can reverse heart disease. Your dog’s diet has a significant impact on his general health and well-being. It’s even more vital to feed the correct dog food if your dog has been diagnosed with a cardiac disease.
How long does a dog live with heart disease?
Degenerative mitral valve disease is a degenerative disease with a sluggish onset of clinical indications, and many of the animals affected may succumb to other illnesses. 6 Survival time is predicted to be between 6 and 14 months if congestive heart failure occurs.