Warning signs that your dog has a heart problem

Just like people, dogs can suffer from heart issues, and if the problems are serious enough, dogs can even die from them. 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.

Common Symptoms

There are several possible symptoms that you may notice if your dog is having heart problems. Obviously, many of them can be related to other causes, but if a number of these symptoms present themselves together heart issues are more likely.

  • Vomiting
    This is often accompanied by a poor appetite.
  • Swollen belly
    Typically from a fluid buildup in his organs — including his lungs.
  • Fatigue
    Your dog is getting tired more easily than normal, 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
    This happens with heart disease because your dog is losing her ability to store healthy fat.
  • Discomfort
    You may notice your dog pacing more than usual and avoiding laying down due to discomfort.
  • Bluish-gray tongue or gums
    This is due to poor flow of oxygen.

Common causes of heart issues in dogs

Why do heart issues come up? There are a number of different reasons:

Old age

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

Injury

If your dog is hurt in certain 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 endocardium around the heart, parvovirus, Lyme disease and Chagas’ disease.

Diet

A poor diet that is 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 specific 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.

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.

Engage in regular exercise

Consider first your dog’s abilities. Even if you start out slowly, simply work your way up gradually, and pay attention to your dog’s specific needs. Regular exercise will make her heart stronger.

Pay attention

Watch for the signs listed above. Your vet should always check for signs of a heart murmur or abnormal rhythm. Be sure to ask your vet about it and follow all advice she gives you.

Go to the vet

It’s important to have regular checkups at the vet to keep your dog’s heart healthy. Time is of 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 proper diagnosis and the most appropriate course of treatment.

Does your dog suffer from a heart problem? How do you help keep him or her healthy?

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