Signs Your Dog May Have Heart Disease

By Species, By Topic, Care & Wellness, Dogs, Emergency Situations

Many people are surprised to find that their dogs can get heart disease just like human beings.

And just like with people, heart disease can have a devastating effect on your dog’s quality of life. Signs of heart disease are lethargy, anorexia, coughing, difficulty breathing, swollen abdomen, fainting, weakness, muscle loss, pale/blue gums and restlessness. It is important in dogs, as it is in humans, to treat heart disease as early as possible. Without early detection, heart disease can advance to a point that is irreversible.  If you suspect heart disease in your dog, please take it to your veterinarian for evaluation as quickly as possible. We are fortunate because we live in a time where veterinarians have many tools at their disposal for the early detection and treatment of heart disease.

The first step in heart disease detection is the exam. During your dog’s physical exam, your veterinarian will hear a heart murmur or arrhythmia if present, he or she will be able to see changes in your dog’s mucous membranes that indicate problems with circulation, and will be able to feel fluid build up in the abdomen.

If your dog has indicators of heart disease, your veterinarian will likely want to do some diagnostics to determine the type and severity of heart disease your dog has. There are many different types of diagnostics available for dogs with heart disease. A dog with an arrhythmia will likely benefit the most from a procedure that evaluates the electrical activity of the heart such as an ECG. If your dog has a severe murmur or muffled heart sounds, it may benefit the most from an x-ray or an ultrasound of the chest. These types of imaging will show the doctor any changes in the shape of your dog’s heart or any problems that may exist within the valves of the heart.

Recently, veterinary medicine has developed a test that measures hormones released by the heart when the muscles of the heart have been stretched or deprived of oxygen. This hormone is called B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) and BNP levels can be used to assess the presence and severity of heart disease in dogs. This may be an especially useful test in animals that show signs of heart disease and cannot be anesthetized for imaging tests such as the x-ray or the ultrasound. The BNP test just requires a blood sample. Rising BNP samples can be used to indicate worsening heart disease and the need for more aggressive treatments.

Regardless of the severity of a dog’s heart disease, all forms of heart disease should be taken seriously and monitored closely. Monitoring and treating your dog’s heart disease can add years onto its life. Don’t let heart disease cut your dog’s life short, stay aware of the signs of heart disease, and take your dog to the veterinarian on a regular basis.

If your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms, call CEDARCREST and schedule an immediate appointment: 540-943-7577

CEDARCREST Animal Clinic provides medical and surgical care for every stage of your pet's life including preventive wellness care exams and vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care for your dog, cat, avian, or exotic. We are home to the only veterinarian practitioner in Virginia to be double Boarded in Avian and Canine/Feline care and provide care for birds, small mammals, and reptiles of all sorts! Plus, we are home to Virginia's most exclusive dog boarding resort that includes heated floors, an expansive play area, and even webcams so you can watch your pet while you're away. We're located in Fishersville, Virginia, and serve Augusta County and surrounding areas including Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville. 

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