No matter your dog's size, he has a big heart - metaphorically speaking, of course. He has a personality all his own, he is a loyal companion and seems to know when you need a good laugh. But this same heart can be at risk for heart disease, an abnormal enlargement of his heart.
Heart disease is an unfortunate but tolerable condition for your dog. Although treatments cannot reverse heart disease, your dog can live a relatively normal life. Aging is the most common reason dogs develop heart conditions, but other factors like heartworm can also lead to heart disease.
If your dog exhibits the following symptoms, take him to your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis:
- A low-pitched cough that sometimes leads to gagging
- Breathing difficulties that include shortness of breath
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Noticeable weight gain or loss
- Swelling in the abdomen
These symptoms are common in other diseases, so it is important for your veterinarian to check for heart disease using some of the following methods:
- A stethoscope exam can reveal murmurs and fluid in the lungs
- Palpation can reveal unusual pulses
- X-rays reveal heart enlargement
- An EKG can identify heart enlargement and irregular rhythms
- Blood and urine tests can reveal heartworms and the condition of other internal organs
Heart disease typically causes the heart to enlarge, and this enlargement causes a loss of efficiency. The heart then begins to hold more fluid than it should and this is where the real problems begin. For this reason, veterinarians recommend feeding dogs a low-sodium food that will help reduce fluid build-up and make it easier for their hearts to work effectively.
For an accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian.