Signs of Heart Disease

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. There are two main types of heart disease, those that produce arrhythmias, and those that produce congestive heart failure.

Common Signs:

You should be able to recognize the early signs of heart disease so you can seek out treatment in the early stages.  There are several possible symptoms of heart problems that pet owners can be on the lookout for, including:

  • Elevated or irregular heart rate
  • Lethargy/weakness/fainting
  • Chronic coughing, especially at night
  • Difficulty with or discontinuing exercise
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Open mouthed breathing in cats
  • Rapid breathing while sleeping (> 40 breaths/minute)
  • Bloated abdomen

Because these symptoms of heart problems 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.

Early Detection

Annual physical exams are important to screen for early signs of heart disease, which may not be apparent with normal daily activities.  During comprehensive physical exams we listen to your dog’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal sounds or heart rhythms.  Early detection, treatment and monitoring of heart disease can prolong your pet’s life.


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:

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

Ultrasound (Echocardiogram): This allows us to 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: Sometimes hypertension (high blood pressure) can be the cause of a heart murmur

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

Blood analysis: A complete blood count and chemistry profile may detect chemical deficiencies or imbalances that can cause cardiovascular issues

Let us know if you have any concerns about your pet’s heart or if it has been more than a year since their last checkup.