Heart Disease In Dogs: Types, Signs, and Treatment

We hear time and again how to protect ourselves from heart disease: put down the bacon, go on a walk, manage stress, and visit our doctors. But is the same true for our dogs?

The answer is yes, a healthy diet and exercise are integral for your pet’s well-being, but these factors are more important in human heart health. Why? Because the leading type of heart disease in humans is coronary artery disease, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. Risk factors for coronary artery disease are obesity, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and smoking tobacco. Dogs generally do not suffer from this condition; instead, degenerative valve disease accounts for 75% of cardiovascular disease in the species. The risk factors here are age and small-size breed.

It is frightening to think about our dog’s suffering in any fashion. Here are some things every pet owner should know about heart disease in dogs, as proper diagnosis and treatment of heart disease can improve your dog’s quality of life and keep your dog’s heart beating for years to come.

What is Heart Disease In Dogs?

Like heart disease in humans, when heart disease develops in a dog, the heart must adapt or change to continue working efficiently and bringing oxygen to the rest of the body. Heart failure in dogs is a complex condition that can develop congenitally (heart abnormality present from birth) or from acquired heart disease in dogs.

  • Congenital conditions can be a result of a breed’s predisposition or an inherited condition. Congenital conditions make up a minority of canine heart disease. It is crucial to detect a congenital heart defect as early as possible, as surgery and treatment can help before the defect leads to congestive heart failure or irreversible heart damage.
  • Acquired conditions make up the majority of canine heart disease cases. Typically, this is a result of wear-and-tear, which comes with aging.
    • Degenerative Valve Disease is the most common heart disease in dogs and accounts for about 75% of cardiovascular disease in the species. The disease is age- and breed-related. There is research that suggests the condition is inherited in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Dachshunds.
    • Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is more common in larger dogs, and it causes the progressive loss of the heart muscle’s ability to contract. The cause of this form of heart disease is unknown, but genetic factors seem to play a role; other risk factors include amino acid deficiencies (taurine, carnitine). Occasionally, DCM-like heart muscle dysfunction develops secondary to an identifiable cause such as a toxin or an infection.
    • Heartworm Disease makes up 13% of canine heart disease even though it is entirely preventable. It is a serious and potentially fatal disease caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworms cause disease by clogging the heart and major blood vessels leading from the heart.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Dog Heart Disease 

The clinical signs of heart disease depend on the type of disease and severity. Your pup may be asymptomatic early on, making it essential to take your dog to the vet every year to screen for heart disease.



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