Your dog’s heart is the most important organ in its body, responsible for pumping blood and feeding its organs, tissues, and muscles with fresh oxygen. This is why it’s essential for you to ensure that your dog has a healthy heart.
There are numerous diseases and illnesses that can lead to an unhealthy heart in your dog, most of which revolve around decreased blood flow (originating from the heart). In the following sections, we describe exactly how your dog can contract heart disease (as well as other heart-related problems), as well as some of the best prevention methods currently available.
Heart disease in dogs is known as cardiomyopathy, and it generally comes in two types: dilated and hypertrophic. Dilated is much more common than hypertrophic (across nearly all breeds). More information regarding both types of cardiomyopathy is covered below.
Heart Disease in Dogs
While certain breeds might be more prone to contracting heart disease than others (e.g. Cocker Spaniels, Boxers, Great Danes, etc.), cardiomyopathy generally does not discriminate in regards to the type of dog that it can affect. While cardiomyopathy is one of the most common heart problems seen in dogs, there are also other illnesses that are just as common (e.g. CVD – otherwise known as chronic valve disease).
Heart disease can be further subcategorized according to how it develops within a dog. For example, congenital heart disease occurs due to a specific genetic trait (and is very rare). Acquired heart disease, on the other hand, is the most common type and can be diagnosed at any age (although it’s more commonly seen among older populations).
Symptoms of Heart Disease
Without getting too technical, heart disease/failure is when your dog’s heart simply cannot pump enough blood throughout its body. Heart-related problems in dogs are fairly common (which some might think to be linked to their diets), and nearly 10% of all dogs in the US have some type of heart-related issue.
The specific symptoms that your dog might experience depend a lot on how advanced their heart disease is, their age, breed, and medical history. Examples of the most common types of symptoms are as follows:
- Heavier breathing than normal (and at a faster pace than usual)
- Excessive coughing
- Decreased energy levels
- Problems with prolonged physical activity
- Fluid build-ups in the abdomen area
- Fast heart rate
If you notice any of the above signs/symptoms in your dog, it’s recommended to schedule a visit to the vet as soon as possible. You might find out that the symptoms are completely unrelated to your dog’s heart health, or they might be indicative of something more serious. In either case, it’s recommended to seek a professional’s opinion before self-diagnosing.
How to Treat and Manage Heart Problems
One of the most effective ways to prevent heart problems from showing up in your dog is by ensuring that its diet consists of high-quality ingredients. Using a brand such as Hills HD dry dog food can provide your pup with an extra layer of protection against heart disease. Avoid dog food brands that contain large amounts of processed ingredients, artificial flavors, and/or additives (all of which can negatively impact your dog’s overall health).
The second most important thing to consider when it comes to prevention, apart from feeding your dog a healthy diet, is making sure that it receives the proper level of exercise (to keep its heart healthy). Strong hearts are those that get worked out, not those that lay around on the couch all day long.
If you want to take your dog’s heart health seriously, you need to realize that its diet and exercise are two of the most important aspects to focus on. Just because your dog isn’t fat doesn’t mean that it can’t develop heart issues, and it also doesn’t mean that it’s physically in-shape. The only way for a dog to truly be healthy is to receive a proper level of exercise (every single day – not just once or twice per week).
Heart Disease Treatment Options
There are a few different ways that vets treat heart disease in dogs. One of the most common forms of treatment is a specific type of medication that works to increase the frequency of your dog’s urinary habits. The purpose behind using a diuretic is to expel excess liquids/fluids from the dog’s body (which can contribute to their heart problems). Other options include ACE inhibitors and the drug known as digoxin.