Unsurprisingly, your dog's heart is one of the most important parts of its body to keep healthy. If the heart becomes afflicted by any condition or disease, the negative effects of that illness may be seen and felt across the whole body. With this in mind, it's critical to stay aware of the various heart diseases that can affect your dog, along with the symptoms to look for. Here are three of the main conditions to be aware of.
1. Valvular disease
The breakdown and thickening of the valves inside your dog's heart can cause valvular heart disease, also known as VHD. The condition most commonly affects older dogs, and a variety of breeds are more susceptible to it. This includes Lhasa apsos, toy poodles, Yorkshire terriers, cocker spaniels, poodles, Chihuahuas, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, schnauzers, and small mixed-breeds.
Unfortunately, during the early stages of VHD, there may be no visible signs that your pet is ill. As the disease progresses, however, symptoms such as coughing, fainting, pale gums, and exercise intolerance will emerge.
2. Heartworm disease
Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can cause heart failure, lung disease, and organ damage. This condition can be fatal for dogs, so it's critical to understand where it comes from and what symptoms your pet may exhibit.
The parasitic heartworm in question spreads through mosquito bites. Once infected, female worms will release their offspring into the dog's bloodstream.
Heartworm has four stages, the first of which can be asymptomatic. Mild symptoms such as coughing and tiredness after light activity can be expected during the second stage. When a dog reaches the third stage, more severe symptoms emerge such as difficulty breathing and other signs of heart failure. Finally, during the fourth stage, the worms will have grown large enough to cause a blockage inside your furry friend's heart. When this happens, surgery is usually necessary to save the dog's life.
3. Dilated cardiomyopathy
DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) is a primary disease of the dog's cardiac muscle, causing the heart to become less and less capable of pumping blood through the rest of the vascular system. While the exact cause of this disease is still unidentified, nutritional and infectious factors, as well as genetic predisposition, have all been suggested.
When a dog develops DCM, its heart becomes enlarged, causing the ventricular walls to thin. As a result, the heart's ability to pump blood becomes increasingly difficult. Due to a lack of blood oxygen, the dog will likely begin to experience lethargy, weight loss, and weakness. The dilation of the ventricles may also result in blood congestion, which causes coughing, fast breathing, and abdominal distention.
Contact a vet for more information.