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Coronary artery disease is caused by an unhealthy diet but dogs seldom suffer from this type of ailment. Most cases of heart disease in dogs reflect something that is termed as the congestive heart failure. Firstly to understand congestive heart failure one mustn’t mix it up with a heart attack. The latter occurs when the blood flow to the heart is completely stopped. Coming back to congestive heart failure, there is a continuous decline in the ability of the heart to transport blood (rich in oxygen) to the entire body. This has an adverse effect on other body organs. The condition of the heart gradually declines and there are no immediate and conspicuous symptoms. The signs of an ailing usually come out over a period of time usually at an extreme stage. One such sign is intense panting in dogs and a difficulty to breathe after strenuous activity/exercise.
Heart disease in dogs is either acquired or congenital. Let’s investigate the causes of the disease deeply. The acquired heart disease is seen in mature dogs and over 95 percent of heart disease matters fall into this category. The word acquired refers to cases where the usual wear & tear has caused the ailment or it is obtained due to some infection or hurt. There are a few types of heart disease that fall under the ‘acquired’ category:
Pericardial disease: Here the normal beating of the heart is affected when the protective sac around the heart gets filled with fluid.
Myocardial disease: Characterized by an enlargement of heart due to weakening or thickening of its muscles and the heart pumping gets affected.
Chronic valvular disease: Due to old age valves of the heart deteriorate and hence leak, thus reducing the amount of blood that can be circulated around the body.
Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat): When the electrical system of the body suffers, the illness occurs as this system is responsible for normal beating of the heart. Electrical impulses guide the heart muscle with regard to contracting and relaxing. They are responsible for effectively controlling heart rate and rhythm.
Congenital malformations include a tiny hole in one of the heart chambers, irregular development of some part of the heart and also heart murmurs fall into this list. Heart murmur is common in the Chihuahua breed and is caused by a disruption in the blood flow that leads to a ‘whooshing’ sound audible through the use of a stethoscope. Heart murmurs should not be a severe reason to worry about as it is observed that the condition clears up naturally in puppies by the time they reach six months of age.
Congenital defects are present by birth in a dog and can take away years from a canine’s life due to improper functioning of the heart.
Some signs to watch out for in the pet dog that should set off alarm bells are:
Cough: Whether your dog experiences a dry or moist cough it is a matter of concern. Coughing and dogs don’t go together. It isn’t considered a normal thing to occur in pooches. Development of cough requires vet intervention without delay and more so if the dog has a heart murmur.
Shallow breathing (more breaths than normal in a given minute) and High respiratory rate: When the dog is at rest/ease or even active and experiences a faster rate of breathing than usual then this is a very direct sign indicating a deteriorating function of the heart.
Protruding belly: Fluid starts to get collected in the abdomen when there is a reduced forward pumping of blood flow. One of the reasons for this condition could be weakening of heart muscles due to a heart disease and calls for a visit to the veterinarian. The pet owner may also notice that there is a loss of appetite and muscle mass in the dog even though its belly appears to be rounder.
Fatigue: The pet will begin to tire very quickly than usual. Even a walk over a short distance begins to exhaust the dog and makes him gasp for air. This situation is called ‘poor exercise tolerance’ and weakening of the muscles of the heart could in all probability be responsible for it.
Spells of Fainting: It is a rare sign but one that needs to be addressed immediately. The dog when excited may faint. But it recuperates soon from the plight.
Diagnosis and treatment
Apart from blood and urine tests the doctor will carry out X-rays and an echocardiogram (a type of ultrasound test). Another ultrasound test is the Doppler echocardiograph that measures the flow of blood through the heart.
As stated earlier congenital defects such as heart murmurs in puppies clear up naturally and do not require surgery. However a surgery becomes unavoidable if the puppy is diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosis that is characterized by a defect in the aorta and pulmonary artery and leads to the lungs receiving surplus blood flow.
Certain Drugs may be prescribed such as digitalis to manage a rapid heartbeat. Nitroglycerine is also used to cure heart disease.
A treatment that is commonly adopted for ‘acquired heart disease’ is the use of drug called ACE inhibitor. It works upon the symptoms and reduces the stress and pressure on the heart.
To ensure your pet enjoys good health, the pet parent must provide his/her pet with a healthy diet and adequate amount of daily exercise. Also be alert not to miss any unusual sign pointing towards heart disease. Timely treatment will help the pet live longer and give it a second chance at life.
DISCLAIMER: All views/facts published in this article are of the guest blogger and Pets World India does not verify the authenticity of the same. We strongly recommend to consult your veterinarian in case of any issues related to your pet’s health.