HEART DISEASE IN DOGS: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE
Part Two, Heart Disease Warning Signs and Diagnosis
Fortunately, the symptoms of heart diseases are not as intangible as most people think it is. In fact, there are a lot of visible signs and symptoms. So if you observe your dog showing any of the symptoms mentioned below, consult your vet immediately.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
If your dog is suffering from heart disease, then nutrient, and oxygen-rich blood is not being properly pumped to all its muscles. Without these, the muscles will not be able to generate enough energy to contract and thus be unable to perform basic movements.
In fact, dog muscles plagued with heart disease exhaust much quicker than the ones that are healthy.
Previous favorite activities now become a chore for your dog, even something as simple as walking.
2. Shortness of Breath
Since heart muscles have begun failing, less oxygen is received by the dog’s vitals. To overcome this oxygen shortage, the lungs go into overdrive. As a result, the dog pants heavily to accommodate more air i.e. more oxygen into the bloodstream. Its tongue may even begin to look blue from the lack of oxygen.
If your dog seems to be breathing heavily at irregular intervals even when its physical activity has been low throughout the day or the weather is not particularly humid, heart disease may be a likely culprit.
3. Loss of Appetite and Subsequent Weight Loss
If your dog no longer shows interest even when you leave its dog bowl heaping, chances are heart disease may be in the mix, especially if this is accompanied by the long line of symptoms featured in this list.
Furthermore, a direct result of the sudden loss of interest in food is followed by drastic weight loss and even more fatigue.
4. Changes in Behavior
Now that muscle tiredness is bothering your precious dog, you’d notice that it no longer loves those long walks in the park.
When you walk into your house after a long, hard day at work, your dog isn’t wagging its tail and running to you excitedly to welcome you home. Instead, it sits in the corner, unhappily.
Lack of enthusiasm, restlessness or coldness are signs of isolating behavior shown by dogs suffering from heart disease.
Heart disease reduces blood flow to all parts of the dog’s body including the brain. This may prompt fainting. If your dog is constantly fainting, this points to some serious health issues. Wrap the pet in a blanket and immediately seek the help of a veterinarian.
Pay attention to all the details regarding your dog’s health up to the point of fainting so you can tell the vet. This aids diagnosis.
6. Swollen Stomach
Some dogs with heart disease may look a bit overweight on the surface but what really happens is that they are swollen and often painfully so. This bloated look is a result of poor blood circulation. Blood flow is restricted. Fluid gathers in the belly and extremities making the
stomach look distended and thus fat.
Minor coughs may be the result of a variety of trivial illnesses and disappear after a few days. However, a persistent cough that becomes more intense after exercise may signal something serious.
If you see signs of your dog coughing frequently and violently for an extended time period, get it immediately checked for heart disease.
Any of the above symptoms should warrant a call to your veterinarian.
Your dog should be screened at least once a year if it is young and every 6 months if it is older. The vet will listen to the heartbeat of your dog to check for any irregular heartbeat or any other symptoms.
If suspicions arise, your dog may be subjected to the following:
- Electrocardiography (ECG) records electrical impulses from your dog’s heart and checks for any irregular heart palpitations.
- The blood test measures the number of red and white blood cells present in the bloodstream to ensure if there’s any possible contagion behind the symptoms.
- Urine test checks for any metabolites that could be excreted because of a parasite infestation.
- Thyroid test looks for abnormally low levels of Thyroxine as in the case of hypothyroidism.
- Echocardiography which is used to confirm the presence of lumps around the heart, monitor valve function and cardiac health.
- A low dose of X-Ray takes photos of your dog’s insides to look for abnormalities.
- Ultrasound is also used to view the structure of your dog’s heart and its movement.
Additionally, pet owners can buy an at home holter monitor which is strapped to the dog’s back for a period of 24-48 hours to measure heart rate.
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How Can You Treat Heart Diseases in Dogs?
Treatment can only be done for heart worm disease. Unfortunately, other heart diseases in dogs are incurable if the disease is in the advanced stage.
On the other hand, if it is caught early on, the vet may recommend:
- Drugs to fix abnormal heart palpitations.
- Surgery to patch up a ripped valve or insert an electronic pacemaker.
- Low sodium diet to prevent edema in the abdomen and extremities.
- Restricting the dog’s physical activity to prevent further weakening until it recovers.
- Vitamin B supplements, Taurine (an amino acid that encourages brain development), Carnitine (an amino acid that burns fat to produce energy), and antioxidants such as Vitamin E.
Aside from medical intervention, try using turmeric for your dog. Turmeric is an Indian spice valued for its antibacterial properties. It has various anti-inflammatory and heart healing benefits that will soothe your sick dog.
Always consult with your veterinarian to determine which supplements will provide the greatest benefits for your pet.
How to Spot the Symptoms of an Oncoming Heart Attack
Keep an eye on your dog, especially if you are suspicious that it may be suffering from heart disease. Being aware can save its life. Some symptoms of an oncoming heart attack maybe:
- A slight fever ( above 103 degrees Fahrenheit/ 39.4 degree Celsius)
- Throwing up
- Lolling head
- Sudden death
What to Do In Case Of Heart Failure
If you do believe your pet is on the verge of a heart attack or has fainted, try wrapping your dog in a blanket to calm it. Remove noisy objects or people (especially children), anything that may serve as a distraction to further scare or agitate your pet.
Do not try to perform CPR on your dog unless you are a professional who knows when it is necessary. CPR that is unnecessarily done may worsen its condition.
Also, do not attempt to feed your dog or make it eat something.
Put your hand on the left side of your dog’s chest and measure its heartbeat for 15 seconds. Multiply that by 4 and you get the beats per minute. A healthy dog has heartbeats per minute of 60-140.
Carry your dog to the veterinarian and make sure to fill him in on the history of your dog’s health.
Many medications are available on the market to help your dog live a better life after a heart attack. The largest clinical trial studying dogs with CHF, Quality of Life and Extension of Survival Time Trial (QUEST), has proven this fact.
Moreover, when it comes to prescribing the right medication, it depends on the severity of the attack your dog suffered. Make sure to thoroughly discuss the issue with your vet so you can make the best decision for your pet’s health.
The ability of the dog to return to a normal life post-heart attack depends on the amount of internal damage that may have occurred during the attack. In some cases, the damage may be too great for the dog to survive.
How to Prevent Heart Disease in Dogs
Fortunately, heart disease is very much avoidable if signs are caught early on and proper treatment is delivered.
Make sure your pet gets annual vet check-ups. The frequency of such check-ups should be increased for older dogs.
Ask your vet to give your dog a proBNP test. ProBNP is the abbreviation for pro-B type natriuretic peptide. This is a test that measures the amount of peptide hormone present in your dog’s bloodstream. This hormone is only secreted if the heart is being overworked.
In the early stages of heart disease, this hormone is released in low amounts but gradually increases as the disease progresses.
Give your dog CoQ10 supplements, with your vet’s approval. CoQ10 protects against damage and supports cell growth. Young dogs have this in abundance but as the dog ages, its levels decrease in the body.
Finally, prevention is better than cure when it comes to reducing the risk of heart worm disease. Keep your dog on a year-round course of heart worm preventatives, prescribed by your veterinarian.
Although heart disease in dogs may be incurable, the good news is it is extremely rare.
However, it is incredibly important to be alert of your dog’s health, precisely so because rare as it is, heart disease is insidious. If your dog is already afflicted, take proper care of your pet and be on the lookout for an oncoming heart attack.
About the Author:
Editor’s Note: this article is intended for informational purposes and is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care for your pet. If your pet is ill or if you suspect a problem, always consult your veterinarian for medical care.