Heart disease is taking the lead among all diseases, not only in humans, but also in dogs. Can dogs have heart attacks? Keeping large animals in apartments with limitations in the level of physical activity, poor diet, genetic predisposition to “heart problems”, poor environment in urban areas are amongst a vast number of reasons why a dog may have a heart attack.
Owners should have the necessary information about how this condition manifests itself, what needs to be done and what awaits their canine friend in the future.
Can dogs have heart attacks? More in-depth look into causes
Most often, the term “heart attack” refers to a violation of the heart, associated with pathological changes in the main heart muscle, namely the myocardium. Nature provides that in the blood vessels of a dog’s heart, there should be practically no cholesterol plaques that block the access of blood to the heart tissues. However, for the reasons given above, an increasing number of dogs are diagnosed with atherosclerosis of the vessels, as a result of which the nutrition of the myocardium is disturbed and the dog develops heart related issues.
This ailment is most common in older dogs but it can can occur in younger ones due genetic pathologies of the endocrine system.
Common heart diseases
Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease
The most common heart disease in dogs (75 to 80% of cases) is MVD or “Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease”. It represents 75% to 80% of cases linked to heart problems.
MDV affects the mitral valve, located in the left heart, between the atrium and the ventricle. The tissues of the valve tend to degenerate with age as they gradually thicken and lose their elasticity. As a result, the valve does close tightly any more and results in abnormal blood flow inside the heart, commonly known as mitral “leaks” or “regurgitations”.
As the condition evolves, the small cords connecting the valve to the left ventricle may rupture and lead to pulmonary edema, amongst other complications, which will threaten the dog’s life.
While MDV is generally observed in small dogs, large ones can also suffer from this condition but are rarely as sick as smaller breeds. On the other hand, certain breeds of medium or large format are predisposed, no longer to an anomaly of the valve, but to a disease of the heart muscle, which is called “cardiomyopathy”.
Congenital heart disease
A small percentage of dogs (approximately 5%) are affected by a heart disease at birth, which is called “congenital heart disease”. The most frequent conditions are malformations of valves, either aortic, pulmonary, mitral or tricuspid.
Communications between the left heart and the right heart or between oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood is another common condition.
Can dogs have heart attacks: How to recognize the signs
The following symptoms can help you suspect your dog is having a heart attack:
- Rapid, uneven heart rate
- Frequent, heavy and shallow breathing
- Intense level of stress or excitement
- Head bowed, breathing with open mouth
- Severe pain: the dog squeals, whines, tries to find a comfortable position
- The dog does not bend its front legs well, sometimes it cannot use them or begins to limp on its left paw
- Unfortunately, sudden death from a heart attack can sometime occur in older dogs.
Do not try to cope with this situation on your own, as this could lead to further problems. If you observe any of the above symptoms, immediately go to the veterinary clinic where the dog can get appropriate emergency assistance!
Diagnostics and treatment
In cases where a heart attack is diagnosed, the vet will provide relief and then conduct a thorough examination of your dog.
To begin with, the vet will use drugs to calm down your dog, relieve pain, and restore the heart rate. Then, the dog will undergo a complete examination, including:
- Analysis of urine and blood
- X-ray examination
- Echocardiography of the heart
The results obtained will clarify the picture and allow the veterinarian to make an accurate diagnosis, after which appropriate medication will be prescribed.
To achieve stable and sustained results, the dog owner must strictly follow the required therapy and all related recommendations and not stop treatment after the first signs of improvement in the dog’s health.
Can dogs have heart attacks: Prevention advice
If your pet already has a history of heart attacks, then from that moment on, visits to the cardiologist should done on a regular basis, regardless of the dog’s health. This will help control the situation and prevent new heart attacks.
Particular attention should be paid to establish appropriate levels of physical activity. Your dog should never be overworked, but feasible physical activity helps to avoid obesity, which negatively affects the health of the heart.
If an attack occurs as a result of an underlying disease, then it is necessary to carry out constant therapy targeting this disease in order to avoid future heart related conditions.
The dog owner should review the diet of his canine friend and consult a healthcare professional to develop a light and nutritious plan for the animal.
Finally, of course, it is very important for a dog to feel your love and care and live in a calm environment!