Canine heart disease can be congenital (present from birth and usually diagnosed in puppies) or more commonly acquired (developing during the course of the dog's life).
The most common acquired heart conditions that we see in dogs are:
* mitral valve disease
* dilated cardiomyopathy
Common Conditions Treated by Dog Cardiology
Mitral valve disease is a condition of one of the heart valves called the mitral valve. This valve sits between the atrium (upper chamber) and ventricle (lower chamber) of the heart on the left side. The valve should provide a perfect seal between the atrium and ventricle but in mitral valve disease the valve degenerates and becomes thickened and consequently leaky to blood. With time this leads to enlargement of the atrium chamber.
Mitral valve disease is most common in small to medium size dogs and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is predisposed.
It usually develops in middle age to older dogs except in the Cavalier where it can develop from a young age.
Abnormal blood flow through the valve results in a heart murmur being heard when the dog’s chest is listened to. This can be an early sign. As the disease progresses and the heart struggles to cope other symptoms that can be expected are:
* an increased respiratory rate
* tiring at exercise
* weight loss
An ultrasound scan of the heart (echocardiogram), chest radiographs and an ECG will often be performed to confirm the diagnosis. Unfortunately there is no treatment to repair the damaged heart valve itself but we are able to give medication to help the heart to cope with the condition.
The second most commonly treated heart disease in dog cardiology is dilated cardiomyopathy.
This is a disease of the heart muscle which becomes weak and unable to contract normally resulting in the heart enlarging and not being able to effectively pump blood around the body.
The condition is most common in larger breed dogs such as the Doberman, Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, St Bernard and Boxer. The Cocker Spaniel is also predisposed.
In the early stages of the disease there can be no outward signs but as the disease progresses a heart murmur can again develop and similar symptoms to those described above for mitral valve disease can be seen. Some dogs will also develop a swollen abdomen.
As with mitral valve disease there is no treatment available to reverse the heart muscle weakness but we are able to support the heart with medication.
The Importance of Early Diagnosis in Dog Cardiology
Diagnosis of heart disease can be a worrying time but an early diagnosis and appropriate monitoring and treatment will give the best possible outcome for your dog.
This is why we recommend regular health checks so early signs like a heart murmur can be detected and acted upon.