Dog

Heart Problems in Dogs

Claire Dunling

When your pup has a heart of gold, it’s difficult to see what could be wrong with their little ticker. Did you know that around 15% of dogs in the UK are affected by some sort of heart condition? Read on to find out how you can spot the early signs of heart problems in dogs, how to prevent the most common conditions and treat them…

Causes of heart disease

Dogs can develop heart conditions at any stage in life. Some puppies are born with congenital heart conditions, the most serious of which can be as they mature into adulthood. Other types of heart problems in dogs will worsen as they grow older. Certain breeds are also prone to heart issues. In all cases, it is important for your dog not to be overweight.

Chronic valvular disease is one of the most common forms of heart disease, affecting the heart valves. CVD is often seen in small breed dogs like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Schnauzers, Pomeranians, Cocker Spaniels and Poodles. This often worsens in middle age.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) affects the heart muscle and circulation of blood around the body. DCM is a condition usually found in medium and larger breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, Boxers, Dobermans and Irish Setters.

As mentioned above, another heart condition found in dogs is Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), which are usually hereditary. Some conditions are more serious than others so need an early diagnosis to see what treatment is necessary. That’s why regular veterinary appointments are so important.

It’s important to keep up with regular wormer treatments as the parasite Heartworm can have a huge effect on your dog’s heart. Eggs and larvae are laid in the dog’s lungs, which will cause symptoms such as coughing. Once the worms are hatched and fully grown, they will prevent the body from clotting blood correctly, resulting in haemorrhaging, poor circulation or bleeding disorders. Your vet will take stool samples and will suggest a suitable treatment for heartworm in dogs.

Symptoms of heart disease:

How to prevent heart problems in dogs

It’s always important to make sure your dog isn’t overweight. Regular veterinary checks will spot any potential heart problems and they can then advise on any treatments and/or dietary changes. (for example, they may advise Royal Canin Canine Cardiac complete dietetic feed for dogs formulated to support heart function in the case of chronic cardiac insufficiency. This diet contains a low level of sodium and an increased K/Na ratio).

Unsure of your dog’s body condition? Check out our Overweight Dog? Underweight Dog? A Dog Body Chart post to see if a weight management plan will be beneficial for your four-legged friend.

This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!