Know Your Dog’s Heart: Disease Prevention, Signs & Treatment

Taking care of your dog’s heart is just as important as taking care of your own. Just like you take the necessary precautions to reduce your risk of heart issues, you should be doing the same for your beloved furry friends. Some heart conditions are more common to specific breeds of dogs,  however most are brought upon by poor diet and an inactive lifestyle. To keep your dog as heart healthy as possible, it’s important to understand the various types of conditions and see your veterinarian regularly.

There are two main types of canine heart conditions: Chronic Valvular Disease and Myocardial Disease. Chronic Valvular Disease is caused by a leaking heart valve that reduces the quantity of blood that can be pumped around the body. Myocardial Disease is caused by the weakening of thickening of the heart muscle and results in the heart pumping less efficiently. 

What causes heart conditions in dogs?

While heart conditions in dogs cannot be traced back to one single cause, the most common causes are body condition, age, breed, and nutrition. Overweight dogs are much more likely to develop heart disease because they are living in a generally unhealthy state. Older dogs also have an increased risk of developing a heart condition because their bodies and immune system are not as strong as they used to be. The biggest cause of heart disease, though, is poor nutrition. Paying attention to what, and how much, you are feeding your dog is crucial to helping it stay happy and healthy. Focus on the quality of the food and make sure it’s made with key nutrients as well as a short list of easy-to-read ingredients.

How to check if your dog has a heart condition:

  • A stethoscope exam to reveal possible murmurs and fluid in the lungs
  • An unusual pulse caused by heart palpitations 
  • An x-ray to reveal possible heart enlargement
  • An EKG to reveal possible irregular rhythms
  • Blood and urine tests to reveal possible heartworm and other internal organ conditions
  • An Echocardiogram to assess heart size, structure and function

Signs that your dog may have a heart condition:

  • Tired and lethargic
  • Fainting or collapsing
  • Frequent coughing and sometimes gagging
  • Breathing difficulties and shortness of breath
  • Reduced ability/desire to exercise
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Abdominal swelling

How to treat your dog’s heart condition:

See your veterinarian for appropriate medication and lifestyle recommendations. If you have nutritional questions, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian for expert advice.

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