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Warning Signs that Your Dog Has a Heart Problem

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Like people, dogs can suffer from heart issues; if the problems are serious, they can even die. Protect your dog’s heart health by knowing the common signs and causes, learning how to keep their heart strong, and what to do if a problem exists.

There are several warning signs that your dog may have a heart problem, the most telling being sudden collapse and difficulty breathing. If your dog experiences these symptoms and exhibits other symptoms, such as fever or lethargy, they likely have a heart problem. If your dog does not recover within a day or two, please schedule a vet visit for a complete exam.

Common Symptoms of Heart Disease in Dogs

There are several possible symptoms you may notice if your dog has heart problems. Many can be related to other causes, but if a number of these symptoms present together, heart issues are more likely.

Vomiting

A poor appetite often accompanies this.

Swollen belly

Typically from a fluid buildup in his organs — including his lungs.

Fatigue

Your dog is getting tired more quickly than usual or refusing to play.

Fainting

Because not enough blood can get to the brain.

Fever

The normal body temperature of a dog ranges from 99.5 °F to 102.5 °F (37.5 C° to 93.1 C°). A body temperature of at least 103.5 °F (39.7 °C) indicates fever.

Increase in heart rate

In critical cases, you can observe this by simply laying your hand on your dog’s chest.

Excessive coughing

Especially while or right after exercising or an hour or two before bedtime.

Breathing heavily

Showing difficulty breathing or while exercising.

Loss of weight

Weight loss happens with heart disease because your dog loses its ability to store healthy fat.

Discomfort

You may notice your dog pacing more than usual and avoiding laying down due to pain.

Bluish-gray tongue or gums

This is due to the poor flow of oxygen.

Common Causes of Heart Issues in Dogs

Heart issues in dogs can come up for various reasons, some of which are genetic and others that are more lifestyle related. For example, breeds like Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds are predisposed to heart disease because of their size and weight, but smaller species can also get it if they have the wrong diet or suffer from obesity. On the other hand, dogs who lead a sedentary lifestyle with low physical activity levels will be at higher risk for developing heart disease. All of these factors, in addition to the ones below, make it essential to monitor your pet’s weight and activity level so that they can enjoy a long and healthy life. 

Old Age

Just as with people, the hearts of dogs get weaker as they age. Aging can lead to several different health problems.

Injury

If your dog is hurt in specific ways, it can damage her heart or cause added pressure that forces the heart to work harder — for example, a broken rib.

Infection

Various types of infections are known to cause heart damage. These include bacterial infection of the membrane around the heart, parvovirus, Lyme disease, and Chagas’ disease.

Diet

A poor diet high in fat can make it much more likely for your dog to develop heart problems — especially if you allow them to grow obese.

Exercise

Dogs need exercise, but you also have to know their limits. If you put too much strain on a dog’s heart, it can cause problems.

Breed

Some breeds are just more susceptible to heart issues than others. It’s a long list, so consult your veterinarian about your breed or breed mix. The top six dogs on the list, susceptible to three or more likely heart conditions, are the German shepherd, boxer, cocker Spaniel, Great Dane, Labrador retriever, and Rottweiler.

Exercise is one of the most important ways you can keep your dog’s heart healthy. A cute dog plays fetch outside, even during the cold months.

General Tips for Canine Heart Health

Want to keep your dog’s heart healthy for as long as possible? While it’s impossible to prevent heart disease in every case, there are things you can do to decrease your dog’s odds of developing cardiac issues.

Maintain Proper Body Weight

If a dog is overweight, it means that his heart has to work harder, and it will be more likely to develop issues. Ask your vet for dietary help and suggestions to help your pup lose excess weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Engage in Regular Exercise

Consider first your dog’s abilities. Even if you start slowly, work your way up gradually and pay attention to your dog’s specific needs. Regular exercise will make her heart stronger. In addition to a stronger heart, you will notice a decrease in behavioral problems such as chewing, barking, digging, and excessive licking.

Pay Attention

Watch for the signs and symptoms shared in this article. Your vet should always check for signs of a heart murmur or abnormal rhythm. Be sure to ask your vet about it and follow her advice.

Go to the Vet

Regular vet checkups are vital to keeping your dog’s heart healthy. Time is of the essence when it comes to cardiac problems. If you suspect that there is a heart issue, don’t delay! Get to the vet immediately for a proper diagnosis and the most appropriate treatment.

Tips for Caring for a Dog with Heart Disease

The sooner the disease is detected, the better chance your furry friend will have of living with little to no pain. Your pet provider can develop a care plan that enables them to enjoy life.

Be Mindful of Treats

Many dogs with this condition should not be fed human food or a lot of treats. These animals usually have trouble digesting food, and it is best to stick with a set diet. It is also necessary to monitor how much they eat so they do not gain weight which would cause extra stress on their heart.

Monitor Salt Intake

A side effect of heart disease is swollen belly and water in the lungs. A low-salt diet can help lower this symptom so your dog can sleep and exercise comfortably.

Medicine

Treatment for dogs with heart disease usually consists of medication to regulate their heartbeat and reduce fluid buildup in the lungs. Your veterinarian may also prescribe additional treatment that could lengthen your dog’s life expectancy, providing them with a healthier lifestyle day-to-day.

Pacemaker

Some veterinarians may feel comfortable implanting a pacemaker inside your pet’s body to regulate its irregular heartbeat. Pacemakers are most often used for young pets born with congenital heart conditions requiring medication or surgical solutions at an early age. Older pets are not recommended for this procedure because it would be too traumatic for their aging bodies.

Supplements

Some dogs who suffer from heart disease do exceptionally well with vitamin B supplements. Amino acid supplementation and Vitamin E help them to digest food properly, as well as provide enough energy so they can sleep better. Simple supplements such as these are often available for an affordable price and offer relief for many symptoms of the disorder at any stage of it.

Does your dog suffer from a heart problem? How do you help keep them healthy?

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