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Identifying & Preventing Heart Disease in Dogs

May 05, 2021 2 min read

Identifying & Preventing Heart Disease in Dogs

Did you know that being a dog-lover can improve your heart health? According to a Swedish study from 2017, there’s a link between being a registered dog owner and having a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. So, dogs are good for your heart—but how can you ensure that you’re keeping your pup’s heart healthy? Get informed on heart disease in dogs and how you can prevent it below.

What are the types of heart disease in dogs?

There isn’t just one universal type of canine heart disease. There are several different types that can be congenital (a condition present from birth) or acquired (occur later in life from factors like diet, age, injury, and illness).

Generally speaking, heart disease applies to a condition that affects your dog’s heart function and blood flow. The Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital sums up the most common types of heart disease in dogs as follows:

  • Congenital heart defects like a ventricular septal defect (a hole in the heart) or pulmonic stenosis (a narrowing of the pulmonic valve)
  • Acquired issues like mitral valve disease (a degeneration of the mitral valve) which is the most common canine heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathies are diseases that affect the heart muscle
  • Cardiac arrhythmias are very slow or very fast heart rhythms

You might’ve heard of congestive heart failure as well. Congestive heart failure isn’t a disease itself, but it’s a result of many different types of heart disease. This is a severe condition that occurs when the heart can’t pump blood and causes fluid to leak into the lungs. This fluid accumulation prevents oxygen from circulating.

All of the diseases—even congestive heart failure—can be treated.

What are the signs of heart problems in dogs?

While there are a variety of heart diseases that can affect canines, many heart conditions exhibit similar symptoms.

According to Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, these are some of the most common signs of heart problems in dogs:

  • Coughing, especially during or after exercise
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Behavior changes, like isolation or lack of interest in playtime and affection
  • Rear limb weakness
  • Bluish gums or tongue, due to reduced oxygen flow

If you notice any of the signs above, it’s time to talk to your vet. Be sure to communicate any symptoms and behavior changes you’ve noticed.

To diagnose a heart problem, your vet may run blood work and perform tests like a chest X-ray, an EKG, and an ultrasound. These can all help to identify any issues.

How to prevent heart disease in dogs

Just like in people, good cardiovascular health starts with diet and exercise. Be sure to provide your pup with nutritious food and limit his salt intake. Starting a habit of regular exercise early is always a good idea. (Plus, it’s good for your heart, too!)

Always be sure to check with your vet before introducing new habits or participating in strenuous activity with your dog.


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