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How To Tell If Your Pet Has Heart Disease

Heart Disease

What Does the Heart Do?

The heart, blood and blood vessels make up the system that supplies the body’s tissues and organs with oxygen and nutrients.

Oxygen-depleted blood comes from all parts of the body to the chambers on the right side of the heart. The blood is then pumped through the lungs, where oxygen is added to it.

Oxygen-rich blood returns from the lungs to the left side of the heart and is pumped out, delivering oxygen to all the body’s tissues.

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What Are the Different Types of Heart Disease?

There are two types of heart disease: congenital and acquired. Congenital heart disease is present at birth and is rare. Acquired heart disease develops over time, usually beginning during middle-age and affective many older dogs.

The most prevalent type of acquired heart disease, Chronic Valvular Disease (CVD), is also known as mitral regurgitation, mitral valve disease and valvular insufficiency, among other names. In CVD, the heart valves gradually lose the ability to close effectively, which causes abnormalities in blood flow.

The second most common kind of acquired canine heart disease, Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) , caused the muscular walls, of the heart to become thin and weak, and the chambers to dilate.

Both CVD and DCM result in the same serious condition which is called heart failure .

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What Is Heart Failure?

Heart failure occurs when the heart cannon pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

Because the heart is not pumping effectively, blood may back up in the heart, lungs, or other organs. Blood vessels constrict and blood pressure increases. As a result, fluid may leak out of the vessels especially of the lungs and liver and cause congestion of the lungs, or fluid accumulation in the abdomen and other tissues, or both.

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How Can I Tell If My Dog Has Heart Failure?

The early signs of heart failure are hard to detect. A decrease in activity or coughing during periods of exercise or excitation are both early signs of heart failure, but owners may consider these normal signs of aging. It is difficult to tell without a thorough examination. As heart failure progresses, however, these early signs become more severe. In addition, your dog may develop other signs such as rapid breathing, abdominal swelling and weight loss.

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Are Certain Breeds More Susceptible to Heart Disease and Heart Failure?

Heart disease can develop in any breed of dog or cat. However, some breeds are more susceptible to certain types of disease. As a rule, breeds such as Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Chihuahuas, and Lhasa Apsos have a greater incidence of Chronic Valvular Disease , while larger breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes and Boxers are more prone to Dilated Cardiomyopathy . However, English Cocker Spaniels are also susceptible to Dilated Cardiomyopathy .

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How Does My Veterinarian Diagnose Heart Disease?

First, you’ll be asked to provide background information about your animal, along with your observations about any problems you’ve noticed. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination:

  • Listening to the heart and breathing sound.
  • Taking the pulse.
  • Inspecting the gums.
  • Feeling for enlarged or swollen internal organs.

A number of procedures may then be recommended by your veterinarian to evaluate your dog and determine the best treatment. These can include:

  • Chest X-rays (radiographs) – to help determine the size and shape of the heart, the condition of the lungs, and the size of the blood vessels.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) – to assist in evaluating the rate and regularity of the heartbeat.
  • Blood and Urine Samples – to check the function of the kidneys, liver and other organs for their involvement in the heart failure process, and for the presence of other diseases.
  • Echocardiogram (ultrasound) – to aid in visualizing the internal structures of the heart and its ability to function.

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Can My Pet Be Treated for Heart Failure?

Yes. Although there is no cure for heart failure, new treatments are helping dogs enjoy longer life with better quality. Success of treatment depends on such factors as:

  • Severity and progression of the disease.
  • Presence of other illnesses.
  • Age of your pet.

A complete evaluation of your pet sill help your veterinarian determine what medications, dietary changes, or exercise restrictions are necessary. Periodic examinations will enable your veterinarian to modify your pet’s medication as needed. In addition, your veterinarian may recommend a consultation or referral to a veterinary cardiology specialist.

As in many other diseases, early detection of heart failure provides the best chance for successful treatment. If you follow your veterinarian’s treatment recommendations, your pet can live a longer more comfortable life.

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What Are the Signs of Heart Failure in My Pet?

The signs of heart failure include the following:

  • Lack of energy.
  • Irregular and rapid breathing.
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss.
  • Coughing.
  • Weakness.
  • Fainting.
  • Abdominal Swelling.

Although the signs of heart disease may appear mild at first, and may be mistaken for signs of aging, heart failure is a serious, progressive problem and can be life-threatening. Not all signs may be present at the same time. Some signs may also be cause by other serious conditions.



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