Heart disease affects nearly one in ten dogs in the United States. There are a number of factors that can influence a dog’s chance of developing heart disease in their lifetime. Among them are diet, breed, and body condition.

In a previous post, we discussed the two main types of cardiac disease: Chronic Degenerative Valvular Disease (CVD) and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). Each disease will have slightly different causes and risk factors. If they remain undiagnosed or unmanaged, these diseases can progress into congestive heart failure.

Which dog breeds are prone to heart disease?

Chronic Degenerative Valvular Disease (CVD). Smaller breeds (under 40lbs) and over or around 5 years of age are at a higher risk for developing CVD. In particular, miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, Pomeranians, miniature schnauzers, dachshunds, small terrier breeds, and cavalier King Charles spaniels are the most frequently seen for CVD.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). Large and giant breeds that are middle-aged are more prone to developing DCM. Doberman pinschers, Great Danes, Irish wolfhounds, boxers and Saint Bernards. Occasionally medium-sized breeds such as cocker spaniels, English springer spaniels, and Portuguese water dogs are also affected.

How is heart disease diagnosed in dogs?

Review Medical History. If your pooch is suspected to have heart disease, the first thing a vet will do is review their medical history and interpret any previous test results. All signs and symptoms will be taken into consideration.

Examination. Next, the vet will perform a thorough physical examination. Your vet will listen to your pup’s heart, lungs and abdominal organs for any abnormal sounds like a murmur or fluid buildup. Additionally, they will feel different parts of the body to observe for any swelling.

Diagnostic Imaging. Finally, your vet will likely order a diagnostic test such as an x-ray, electrocardiography, echocardiogram, or more rarely, a cardiac catheterization. These tools can confirm heart disease is present by determining if the heart chambers are enlarged, there is a birth defect in the heart, there is fluid in the lungs, the heart’s electrical activity is abnormal, or if the vessels and valves are narrowed or leaky.

Managing Heart Disease in Dogs

As we mentioned before, as heart function continues to deteriorate, CVD and DCM can both lead to eventual heart failure. If caught and managed early, however, your furry friend can live a long and enjoyable life. The goals of treatment are to minimize damage to the heart muscle, control the accumulation of fluids in the lungs, improve circulation, regulate the heart rate and rhythm, ensure that there is enough oxygen in the blood, and minimize the risk of blood clot formation. If corrective surgery is not indicated, one or a combination of drugs will be prescribed to treat these symptoms. Sometimes a specific diet and exercise schedule will be recommended as well.

Animal Clinic in Gilbert, AZ

At East Valley Animal Hospital, we believe your pet deserves the best medical treatment and compassionate pet care and attention. If you’re looking for a veterinary hospital in Gilbert AZ, give us a call today. We take pride in giving you and your four-legged family members the kind of care they deserve.


Photo by Markus Frieauff on Unsplash (6/11/2020)