Canine Cardiac Diseases

Knowing what health issues your dog is susceptible to gives you the chance to catch a malady early when you have ample time to modify it. When the issue concerns the heart, you can slow down the disease before it progresses to heart failure. Heightened awareness gives your dog a better quality of life, increased quantity of life, and minimizes the need for additional medication.

The two types of inherited heart disease veterinarians see most often in dogs are degenerative mitral valve disease (DMVD) and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease – often affects small breeds such as Cavalier King Charles, Dachshunds, and Miniature and Toy Poodles.

The incidence of degenerative mitral valve disease (DMVD) occurs more frequently in these breeds than any other. Fifty percent of Cavaliers develop a heart murmur, indicating onset of the disease, by age 5, and nearly 100 percent by age 10. With DMVD, a leaky mitral valve causes blood to go backward into the left atrium of the heart. (Usually this valve closes when the heart contracts and the blood moves forward into the body.)

Signs include: exercise intolerance, increased respiratory rate and/or effort, and coughing.

Because the condition is inherited, we can’t do much to prevent it.  But you can manage the effects of it with medication.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy – often affects large breeds such as Boxers and Dobermans.

Cardiomyopathy is defined as degeneration of the heart muscle. As a result of this degeneration, the muscle becomes thinner, particularly the thick muscle wall of the left ventricle. The pressure of the blood inside the heart causes these thin walls to stretch resulting in a much larger heart. This condition is described as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Signs include: Weakness, fainting spells, difficulty breathing, distension of the abdomen with fluid, and coughing are all possible in the later stages of disease.

Sick Sinus Syndrome – often affects Miniature Schnauzers

Sick sinus syndrome is a cardiac condition of unknown cause that affects the heart rate and rhythm of both humans and dogs. In this disease, the heart’s electrical impulse-generating sites (called sinuses) fail to function normally. As a result, dogs with this problem will be unable to maintain normal heart rates and many also suffer other changes in heart rhythm.

Signs include: weakness, exercise intolerance, collapse and fainting.

If you own or plan to adopt one of the breeds mentioned, you need to watch for symptoms they may exhibit that are common to heart disease. You should also take your dog for regular veterinary checkups, so a medical professional can also listen for clinical signs of changes in the heart.