Did you know?
12% of dogs over the age of 8 have heart disease. The 2 most common form of cardiac disease in an older dog is related to the dysfunction of the valve/s or the muscle wall of the heart. This problem is particularly common in smaller breeds, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, but can also affect larger dogs. The body has an amazing capacity to cope with slow changes to the heart before any clinical signs will appear. The presence of clinical signs means that the degree of damage or disease is too severe and your dog will start to show symptoms relating to blood not being efficiently pumped around the body.
How do I know if my dog has heart disease?
- Getting “puffed” or tires easily
- Weakness or fainting with exercise
- Coughing, tends to be a soft cough that is worse at night
- Laboured or fast breathing, some will look like they are breathing from their abdomen (bellies)
- Rounded belly due to fluid build up
- Weight loss
- Change in colour of the mucous membranes or gums (pale)
Damaged heart valves will usually produce a heart murmur or change in rhythm which can be detected on clinical examination by the veterinarian using a stethoscope. This can sometimes be detected well before your dog shows any clinical signs of heart failure. Blood tests and an x-ray or ultrasound will need to be performed to confirm the extent of the problem.
What can be done for my dog with heart disease?
If your animal does get heart disease there are things that can be done about it! Treatment is aimed at reducing the load on the heart, helping the heart to beat and reducing fluid retention. Fluid tends to build up in the lungs or the belly causing most of the secondary breathing problems. Medication is very good at counteracting this secondary effect.
Prognosis depends on the cause of the heart disease, but early diagnosis with regular check ups at the vet and keeping an eye out for clinical signs at home, will give your dog the best chance at the longest happiest life. If your dog is started in heart medication it will often be on this medication for life.