Heart disease is a common internal medical condition in dogs so pet parents need to be able to spot the signs early, and get the treatment their four-legged friend needs fast. Below, our Gaithersburg vets discuss common signs of heart disease in dogs.
Your Dog's Heart
The heart is an incredibly important organ and any disease that affects the heart is likely to have negative effects on other organs as well. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to detect heart disease until it has reached a later, more severe stage, but there are some symptoms dog owners should be aware of. It is also important to note that some breeds are more prone to heart disease than others. You should always research breed-specific problems before purchasing a dog to be sure you are prepared to handle any potential complications with your dog's health.
Common Signs of Heart Disease to Watch For
The signs of heart disease in dogs are very similar to those in people. The main difference is of course that our four-legged friends can't tell us how they are feeling, so it's up to us to spot the signs early and get our pet's the urgent veterinary care they need.
If your dog is showing any of the symptoms below, contact your vet right away.
- Your dog could develop a persistent cough if heart disease leads to a buildup of fluid in your dog's lungs. If your dog has a cough that doesn't clear up in a couple of days contact your vet to schedule an examination for your dog.
Fainting or Collapse
- Often triggered by a persistent cough or exercise, fainting or collapse can occur in dogs suffering from heart disease due to a lack of blood flow to the brain. It's important to note that in some cases, fainting can look like a seizure. Contact your vet immediately if your dog collapses or faints.
- Breathing difficulties and increased rate of breathing are both signs that your dog may be suffering from heart disease. Whenever your pet experiences difficulties breathing urgent veterinary care is required.
Reluctance to Exercise, Play or Climb Stairs
- Dogs with heart disease will feel weaker than healthy dogs and typically tire out much more easily. If your dog used to have boundless energy but is now showing signs of fatigue, weakness, or reluctance to exercise, heart disease could be the reason.
- The appearance of a pot belly caused by abdominal fluid build-up could be an indication that your dog has heart disease. If your dog develops a pot belly schedule an appointment with your vet right away.
Bluish Tinge to Skin
- When the heart is not working as it should, a lack of oxygen in the blood can occur and result in a bluish tinge to the skin. If you notice that your dog's skin has developed an unusual tinge, either bluish or yellowish (jaundice) veterinary care is essential.
- If your dog's personality changes for no apparent reason something is amiss. A change in demeanor, appetite, or enthusiasm could all indicate that your dog's heart isn't working as it should. Contact your vet to book an appointment.
Diagnosing Heart Disease in Dogs
Early signs of internal medicine conditions such as heart disease in dogs can often be spotted by vets during a pet's Annual Wellness Exam. These routine pet checkups are designed specifically to check for signs of developing conditions so that treatment can begin in the earliest stages when it is most effective.
If your vet believes that your dog is suffering from heart disease they may recommend diagnostic testing such as X-rays, cardiac evaluation, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, cardiac catheterization, or blood and urine tests.
Treatment of Heart Disease in Dogs
Treating heart disease in dogs depends on the underlying cause of the disease. Heart disease can be caused by several things including birth defects, heartworm infection, other bacteria or viral infections, toxins, mineral deficiencies, and tumors. Once heart disease is diagnosed, a treatment plan specific to the type of heart disease your dog has will be discussed.
Many types of heart disease require life-long monitoring with frequent diagnostic testing and medications. Some heart diseases, such as congenital defects, can be corrected by surgery.
Preventing Heart Disease in Dogs
Heart disease can be difficult to prevent. Sometimes you can do everything right and your dog could still be diagnosed with heart disease.
That said, there are a few things you can do to help reduce your dog's risk of heart disease, including:
- Keeping your dog on preventive heartworm medication
- Feeding your dog quality dog food—you can discuss with your vet the best diet for your particular dog
- Ensuring that your dog gets the right level of daily exercise for their age, breed, and size
- Helping your dog maintain a healthy weight
- Avoiding exposure to toxins and contaminated areas
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.