Dog Facts

Heart Disease in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

by Karen Parquet

Life With Dogs is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

Do you know if your dog has heart disease? Are they showing symptoms you can’t seem to find a source for? It’s frightening to think that your dog may suffer from one of the types of heart disease, but the sooner you act and bring it to your veterinarian’s attention, the better.

Let’s Talk About Heart Disease in Dogs

shutterstock 18561217

Various factors can contribute to heart disease in dogs. Genetics, age, breed, & lifestyle factors can play a role in developing this condition. Some dog breeds are more predisposed to heart disease than others. Breeds like Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Miniature Schnauzers, Boxers, & Doberman Pinschers will likely develop heart disease.

Age is also a factor in heart disease, with dogs over the age of 6 & 10 being at a higher risk. Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, & obesity can contribute to heart disease. A diet high in fat and sodium can increase the risk of heart disease in dogs. Lack of exercise and an overweight condition can put extra strain on the heart, leading to heart disease.

Also, certain health conditions can increase dogs’ heart disease risk. Heartworm disease, kidney disease, and thyroid disease can all contribute to the development of heart disease. Other factors, such as infections, toxins, and medications, can also cause damage to the heart and increase the risk of heart disease.

Dog owners must be aware of these factors and take steps to minimize the risk of heart disease in their furry friends. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and routine veterinary check-ups can help keep your dog’s heart healthy and catch any potential issues early.

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Dogs

Congenital heart disease in dogs can quickly become severe and even fatal if left untreated. It’s essential to watch for symptoms and have a treatment plan in place with your vet.

Even a slight change in your dog’s regular habits can indicate a heart problem. The following are signs you may see if your dog has this silent menace affecting their quality of life:

Coughing

A sick dog is lying

A chronic cough in dogs is often a common type of symptom of heart disease, which can have serious consequences on the body. When a dog’s heart struggles to maintain a good blood flow for adequate blood circulation throughout its body, it can develop this heart disease cough.

This is because the weakened heart cannot maintain pressure in the pulmonary arteries, resulting in fluid backing up into the lungs and causing a cough.

Difficulty Breathing

If your dog is having shortness of breath, it could be a sign of heart enlargement, congestive heart failure, heart muscle disease, or other types of cardiac disease. If your pup struggles to take in breaths or appears to be panting excessively, make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.

Weight Loss or Gain

Changes in your dog’s weight could be a sign of heart disease. If you notice your pup is losing weight, it can mean that their heart is too weak to pump enough blood to fuel their body, and they cannot eat as much as they should.

If you notice your pup is gaining weight, even though their diet isn’t changing, this could also be a sign of heart disease. Suppose your dog is overweight and begins panting more than usual or appears to tire quickly during physical activity. In that case, it may show types of heart problems and warrant an appointment with your veterinarian.

There are more than a few risks your dog could be showing for heart disease. Just like a human heart, ensure your pup has a healthy, normal life and gets plenty of exercise and good nutrition.

Changes in Behavior

1.30.17 sick dog

Any sudden changes in behavior, such as depression, lethargy, or aggression, can also show underlying health issues related to the heart. If your pup is sleeping more than usual or not participating in activities they previously enjoyed, it could be a sign of heart problems.

Poor Appetite

A decreased appetite may show something is wrong with your pup’s cardiovascular system and shouldn’t be ignored. If you notice your pet is not eating or drinking as much as they normally do, immediately make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Fainting/Collapsing

If you ever notice your pup suddenly collapsing or fainting, it could be a sign of heart disease, an enlarged heart, or abnormal heart activity. Seek medical attention immediately if this occurs. Please don’t wait if your vet isn’t open and go to the ER with your pup.

Weakness

Suppose your pup is having difficulty getting up or suddenly begins walking slowly. In that case, it’s essential to monitor them and seek medical attention if the problem persists, as they could have a decreased heart rate or develop heart problems.

This could be a sign of a heart problem and should not be ignored. As with many things on this list, there are other conditions this could be caused by, so it’s essential to seek the help of a vet as soon as possible.

Restlessness

rocco2

If your pup seems restless, pacing around, or panting heavily when they usually wouldn’t, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as heart disease. Sometimes, this is a sign of other conditions, such as dementia in dogs, or they’re in pain and can’t stay still.

I used to have a dachshund who had dementia and showed the same signs of heart disease: pacing, restlessness, etc. With her age, it was a concern, and we had her checked right away to get a confirmed diagnosis of heart disease.

Edema

If your pup’s feet and abdomen appear to be swollen, this could show a fluid buildup in the body because of heart failure or heart enlargement. If you notice any swelling, contact your veterinarian right away. This could also be a sign of other conditions, such as Cushing’s, so ensure you talk to your vet immediately to rule out anything else.

Isolation

Dogs with heart problems can suddenly start isolating themselves from other animals or people; this could be a sign of a heart condition. It’s important to monitor your pup and watch for any other potential signs or symptoms that may show something is wrong.

Some pets are also very stoic despite being sick. I had a greyhound who had cancer. Shortly after he started having symptoms, we found out he also had heart disease. He was so stoic we wouldn’t have known unless he began to cough suddenly.

You know your dog better than anyone else! Pay attention to the signs and get them taken care of as soon as possible.

Treatments for Heart Disease in Dogs

Don being checked by two vets

For treating heart disease in dogs, the approach will vary depending on the specific condition that the dog has. Some conditions and their treatments available for common heart conditions in dogs include:

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

DCM is a condition that causes the heart muscle to become weak and enlarged, reducing its ability to pump blood effectively. Treatment for DCM may involve medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and diuretics to help manage the symptoms of heart failure. 

Mitral Valve Disease

Mitral Valve Disease is a condition that involves the deterioration of the valves that separate the heart’s upper and lower chambers. Treatment may involve medications such as ACE inhibitors and diuretics to help manage symptoms and improve cardiac function. In some instances, they may also consider surgical options, such as valve repair or replacement, for several of these conditions.

Aortic Stenosis

Aortic stenosis involves the narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve, restricting the flow of blood out of the heart. Treatment may include medications such as diuretics and ACE inhibitors to help manage symptoms.

Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias involve irregular heart rhythms, causing inefficient blood flow and other issues. Treatment options may include medications such as beta-blockers or anti-arrhythmic drugs and pacemaker implantation in certain but rare cases.

Treatment for heart disease in dogs is typically most effective when it begins early. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are essential for ensuring the best possible outcomes.

Besides these medical interventions, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and weight management can also play an essential role in managing heart conditions in dogs. With the right treatment plan, many dogs with heart disease can enjoy a good quality of life for years to come.

FAQs

How long do dogs live with heart disease?

The lifespan of a dog with heart disease can vary depending on many factors, including the specific condition the dog has, how early it was detected and treated, and the overall health of the dog. Dogs with heart disease can still live a good quality of life with proper management and treatment.

Can dogs recover from heart disease?

If your dog is overweight, it can be a significant risk factor for heart disease. Helping your pup to reach and maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce the strain on their heart. Also, ensure you provide them with nutritious food that contains essential vitamins and minerals that support cardiovascular health.

What is the final stage of heart failure in dogs?

The final stage of heart failure in dogs is often characterized by severe symptoms and may be life-threatening. As the condition progresses, the heart cannot pump blood effectively, leading to reduced circulation and organ damage.

Is heart failure in dogs sudden?

Heart failure in dogs can often come on suddenly, but it usually results from an underlying condition developing. Sometimes, symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, changes in behavior, and weight gain or loss may develop gradually before heart failure occurs.

How can I check my dog’s heart?

Checking your dog’s resting heart rate can be helpful. To do this, place your hand on their chest, just behind their front legs, and feel for their heartbeat. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply it by four to get the beats per minute. A normal heart rate for dogs is between 60 and 140 beats per minute.

What is the most common heart condition in dogs?

The most common heart condition in dogs is congestive heart failure (CHF). A variety of conditions can cause CHF, including genetic defects, bacterial or viral infections, and problems with the valves of the heart.

Conclusion

Although these are some of the most common signs of heart disease in dogs, it is essential to remember that every dog can have different symptoms, and a diagnosis should be made by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition. Early detection is key for providing your pup with the best possible care for heart disease or any other condition they may have. If you are concerned that your pup might suffer from heart disease, contact your veterinarian for an examination.

What’s your experience with heart disease in dogs? Do you have any advice for those going through the same? Let us know in the comments below.

Leave a Comment