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Heart disease in dogs – Know the causes, treatments, and preventive measures

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Dogs are the best and most faithful companions for humans. The companionship is so deep that dogs, too, can develop many of the diseases that afflict humans, the most prominent being heart disease or cardiovascular disease. Dogs have their own personality and are so close to their owners that they share their hearts too at least concerning the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Do not be surprised at all because almost 8 million dogs in the US suffer from cardiovascular disease. Looking at it from another angle, it becomes clear that the disease affects nearly 10% of the dog population in the United States. However, people at large, including pet lovers as well as those associated with the medical field are unaware of the fact that dogs face the risk of heart disease.

It is common for dogs to have heart disease, but unlike humans, the risk factors are different because the animals neither smoke or drink nor consume fatty diet. Valvular disease is the most common form of heart disease in dogs. It primarily affects small breed of dogs exceeding 5 years of age and constitutes 70%-75% heart disease in dogs.  Heartworm disease is another type of heart disease that affects almost 13% of dogs, and the disease is preventable.   Another 8% of dogs suffer from a myocardial disease such as dilated cardiomyopathy that affects dogs of a large breed.

Drugs for cardiovascular disease

Use of medicines like diuretics is most common for treating cardiovascular disease as it increases urine output and helps in fluid removal from the body.  It also helps to improve muscle contraction of the heart, lowers the heart rate, and allows the better working of blood pressure receptors. Vetmedin dosage is a chewable drug recommended for the treatment of congestive heart failures of dogs.   The drug shows a remarkable improvement of the clinical signs and increases the life expectancy of dogs.

Signs of heart disease

The clinical manifestations of heart disease in dogs depend on the type of disease and severity. But during the onset of the illness, there might not be any signs at all. Heart disease leads to congestive heart failure, which happens when the heart is unable to meet the demands of the body, and this is when the signs and symptoms become prominent. Dogs might develop fatigue, which is the most visible sign. Other symptoms can include - reluctance to walk or exercise; difficulty in breathing and weight loss; loss of appetite, trouble coughing or sleeping, and distended abdomen.  If your pet shows any of these symptoms, you must see your veterinarian immediately.

Heart conditions and heart disease in dogs

Heart diseases in dogs are unfortunate but a tolerable condition for the most crucial organ of the animal. The heart pumps blood containing nutrients and oxygen through the blood vessels to the cells across the body.  The decreased pumping capability of the heart is the most common heart condition in dogs, and it can lead to an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and chest. Heart conditions are of two types – one that affects the heart muscles and the other that affects the heart valve. Dogs suffering from either condition are manageable with exercise, nutrition, and medicine if required. Despite the disease, with the right food and advice from your vet, your dog can continue to enjoy an active and happy life.

Heart conditions and its causes

Chronic valvular disease arises from a leaking valve that decreases the pumping capacity of the heart.  The myocardial disease is a condition that results in weakening or thickening of the heart muscle reducing the pumping efficiency of the heart. Although the conditions are different, the result is the same because it adversely affects heart functioning.

There may be several causes for heart disease, but nutritional problems are the main contributors. Aging is the most common factor for developing heart disease, and heartworm can also lead to it. Also, overweight dogs have a higher risk of heart disease. The small breed of dogs usually suffers from a chronic valvular disease, whereas large breed dogs can develop the myocardial disease.

Yearly checkup can help

The signs of heart disease and its symptoms show up much late when the disease has progressed considerably. So to be on the safe side, you must take your pet to your veterinarian once a year.  Screening for heart disease can help in early detection. The veterinarian will use the stethoscope to hear the sounds of the heart to detect if there are any irregular rhythms or abnormal murmurs and look for other subtle signs of the disease. If the veterinarian suspects something, he or she will measure blood pressure. The vet can also advise other tests like X-ray, ECGs, or cardiac ultrasounds to confirm the diagnosis and determine the cause to start treatment.

Treatment of cardiovascular disease

The goals of treatment comprise of minimizing damage to the heart muscles, regulate the heart rhythm and rate, control fluid accumulation in the lungs. The treatment also works to reduce the risk of blood clotting to ensure enough oxygen in the blood. Killing mature heartworms is the goal of treating heartworm disease.

Treatment of cardiovascular disease must be specific for the type of disease. Medical therapy helps to manage many conditions by using a single drug, or a combination of drugs, and some defects might require surgery for repair. A low-sodium diet works well for dogs with congestive heart failure as it helps to eliminate the excess fluid in the body.

Preventing heart disease in dogs

Dogs suffering from diabetes, obesity, and arthritis respond well to exercise and diet that can bring the conditions under control but does not help in preventing acquired heart disease. Except for heartworm disease, it is not possible to prevent heart disease in dogs. Putting your pet on heartworm preventives throughout the year can protect your dog from contracting the deadly disease. Although the treatment of heartworm disease is effective, prevention is always better.
Early diagnosis and treatment can improve the quality of life of dogs suffering from heart disease for which regular checkups at least twice a year is the only solution.

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