Detecting Heart Disease Early

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), heart disease in dogs affects 1 of every 10 dogs worldwide. Dog heart disease is a condition in which an abnormality of the heart is present. Heart disease in dogs can lead to heart failure if untreated.

Early detection of dog heart disease requires due diligence on the part of dog owners.

Annual physical exams are important to screen for early signs of heart disease, which may not be apparent with normal daily activities. If problems are detected then diagnostic procedures, such as x-rays, ultrasound and blood pressure measurements may be recommended to determine what to do.

A veterinarian can employ some or all of the following procedures during a cardiac examination:

Physical exam: We listen to your dog’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal sounds

Ultrasound: We can view and measure your dog’s heart’s chamber, valves and muscles, as well as the major cardiac vessels using soundwaves and without any pain or invasion

Blood pressure: We perform a standard, non-invasive blood pressure test to monitor systolic and diastolic pressure

Electrocardiogram (EKG): We measure the electrical activity of your dog’s heart to diagnose heart arrhythmias among other conditions

X-Rays: With diagnostic imaging such as x-rays, we can view the heart’s overall size, its positioning in the chest, and the general condition of the lungs

Blood analysis: We can perform a complete blood work chemistry to detect chemical deficiencies or surpluses that indicate cardiovascular issues

Symptoms of Heart Problems In Dogs

There are several possible symptoms of heart problems in dogs that dog owners can be on the lookout for, including:

  • Lethargy/weakness/fainting
  • Difficulty with or discontinuing exercise
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing possibly accompanied by fluid buildup in the lungs
  • Rapid breathing while sleeping (> 40 breaths/minute)
  • Fainting/collapse
  • Chronic coughing
  • Regularly elevated heart rate

Because these symptoms of heart problems in dogs can indicate one of many possible conditions, and potentially even something unrelated to the cardiovascular system, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian immediately if you suspect anything out of the ordinary.  Also, regular annual exams help us to pick up early changes before these signs develop.  Early detection, treatment and monitoring of heart disease can prolong your pet’s life.