Heart Disease in Dogs
As a concerned pet owner, you need to know the signs of heart disease in dogs and the risk factors. Then you can best care for your pet.
Preventative Steps to Avoid Heartbreak
As a concerned pet owner, you need to know the signs of heart disease in dogs and the risk factors so that you can best care for your pet. In addition, you need to provide your dog with regular medical care, feed your pet a balanced diet and give your dog a heartworm preventative medication, such as Heartgard for dogs or Interceptor, in order to prevent common canine heart diseases. Taking these steps will result in a healthier heart for your best friend.
Brokenhearted Pet Owner
Signs of Heart Disease
Early heart disease often has no signs at all. Signs usually progress to a noticeable point as the disease advances. While some diseases have specific signs, general signs of canine heart disease include:
- Difficulty Breathing.
- Exercise intolerance and exhaustion.
- Pale gums.
If you notice any of these signs, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately. Do not wait for an appointment. Any dog showing these signs requires emergency care.
Common Types of Heart Disease
Heart disease is most common in middle aged and older dogs and in young puppies. In puppies, heart problems are almost always caused by congenital abnormalities in the heart. If your puppy shows signs of heart disease, it needs veterinary care. In addition, if you have a puppy with a known family history of heart disease, your pet needs regular monitoring. In older dogs, heart disease is often triggered by breed predispositions, cancer, infections, trauma, poor nutrition and parasites. Some common heart diseases found in adult dogs include:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy.
- Heart valve diseases.
- Heartworm disease.
Diagnosis of Heart Disease
Diagnosis of heart disease starts with a complete medical history and physical examination. Your veterinarian will ask you questions about your dog’s behavior and history in order to determine if your pet could be experiencing symptoms of heart disease. He or she will also ask about medications that could cause heart issues and will need to determine if your dog is receiving a regular heartworm preventative medication, such as Revolution, Heartgard for dogs or Interceptor. The doctor will also listen to your dog’s heart and lungs, check the animal’s pulse and examine the rest of its body. If your veterinarian suspects a heart problem, he or she will need to do further tests to diagnose it. Some common tests include echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, blood pressure, chest x-rays and bloodwork. If your veterinarian finds evidence of cardiac disease, he or she will talk to you about treatment options. In some cases, your veterinarian might suggest that you take your dog to a veterinary cardiology specialist for more advanced diagnostic procedures and treatments.
Treating Heart Disease
Over the course of the last decade, many advances in the treatment of heart disease have occurred in human medicine. Veterinary cardiologists can use many of the same cutting edge techniques to treat disease in dogs. Specific treatments vary depending on the disease. Abnormalities, such as patent ductus arteriosus, can be corrected with surgery. Other diseases require specific medications. Heartworm disease, for example, is treated with drugs, such as Heartgard for dogs, that contain ivermectin to clear larvae and Immiticide to kill adult worms. Other common treatments for heart diseases include medications, such as dieuretics and ACE inhibitors, and interventional radiology.
Preventing Heart Disease
While genetic heart diseases cannot be prevented except by selective breeding, there are things you can do to help keep your dog’s heart healthy. One of the most important things you can do is to provide proper nutrition and assure that your dog maintains a healthy weight. Dogs with diets lacking certain nutrients can develop heart disease, and extra weight overworks the heart. In addition, taking care of your dog's teeth will help your pet’s heart. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and damage organs, including the heart. Finally, you can help your pet by scheduling regular veterinary care and being alert for the signs of heart disease.
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