Your dog’s heart plays a vital role in his or her wellbeing (and yours)! The cardiovascular system is composed not only of the heart, and blood vessels. The heart pumps blood and provides oxygen and nutrients to the tissue, while eliminating waste products such as carbon dioxide.
Like humans, dogs are susceptible to a number of heart conditions that can often be difficult to detect. The two most common types of heart disease are valvular heart disease, followed by dilated cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, and heartworms. Prognosis can be poor if not detected early.
Chronic valvular diseases are called degenerative valve disease. This disease is the most common heart disease in dogs and affects about 40 to 70 per cent of dogs. It is predominant in small breed dogs and is more frequent in male dogs. The cause of the disease is unknown. In valve disease, the valves develop a leak that causes blood to pump backwards and create a murmur that will eventually lead to congestive heart failure. In most cases, the mitral valve is affected, which is why valvular disease is sometimes called mitral valve disease or mitral regurgitation.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is the second-most common form of heart disease in dogs and occurs when the diseased heart chamber enlarge and the wall of the ventricles become thin. The heart muscle weakens and is unable to pump blood effectively throughout the body. It is most likely to affect large-breed dogs and those between two and five years of age at the onset of symptoms.
A heart murmur is not an illness or disease, but is a vibration caused by turbulent blood flow into, through, or out of the heart. Not all heart murmurs are serious, but they can be indicative of an underlying heart disease.
- exercise intolerance
- difficulty breathing
- increased breathing rate
- abdominal swelling (caused by fluid in the belly)
- loss of appetite and weight
- swelling of the legs
- coughing up blood or mucous
- bluish grey gums, tongue and lips
Heart disease is a frightening diagnosis, but with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment you can help your dog live more comfortably. A diet low in sodium and high in potassium is usually recommended for dogs with heart disease. An annual visit to a vet is always recommended. Consult your vet for precise diet and treatment advice and remember never to diagnose your pet or administer any product without your vet’s consent.