Your dog’s heart is among their most critical organs, making it imperative that it stays healthy and functioning properly for the sake of longevity and quality of life. While signs of heart disease in your dog can be frightening, early diagnosis and intervention can add years to their life. If you suspect a heart-related health issue with your dog, it’s natural to seek insight to ease your mind. At Boca Park Animal Hospital, we work extremely hard to bring you factual information you can trust, so we’ve taken FAQs on dog cardiology and answered them as thoroughly and accurately as possible.

If you’re looking for a highly trained veterinarian in Las Vegas, NV, we’d love to see your dog for an exam to confirm their heart is healthy, so please call us at (702) 213-4513.

What is a veterinary cardiologist?

A veterinary cardiologist is a board-certified veterinarian who specializes in cardiology, meaning they have completed additional years of school to specifically study cardiology and passed a specialized cardiology exam. While any veterinarian can detect a heart condition, they rely on board-certified cardiologists in many cases and can refer patients to one locally. 

What are some signs and symptoms of a cardiovascular condition in a dog?

The signs and symptoms of a cardiovascular condition in a dog can vary. 

  • Common signs of a cardiovascular condition in dogs include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent and progressive cough
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Collapse
  • Weakness when running or exercising

Can dogs exercise normally if they have a cardiovascular condition?

Often, dogs with cardiovascular conditions have decreased exercise abilities and tire quickly. A dog with significant heart disease should be limited in physical exertion to avoid a heart-related episode. However, a reduced exercise regimen for a dog with a mild condition can be beneficial when limited to a level that avoids panting, shortness of breath, and weakness. Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine offers additional insight on exercising dogs with heart conditions. 

How soon should I bring my dog in to see a veterinarian if I suspect that they have heart disease?

If you suspect your dog has developed heart disease, they should see their veterinarian as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment could mean a much better prognosis for your dog. 

How will a veterinarian diagnose cardiovascular disease in my dog?

If your veterinarian suspects a heart condition in your dog, your veterinarian will start with a complete physical exam, listening to their heart with a stethoscope and feeling for the dog’s pulse. They’ll also conduct specialized tests such as x-rays or an echocardiogram to see what’s going on inside. While x-rays are also helpful in diagnosing, they only provide a two-dimensional view. An echocardiogram is a specialized ultrasound of the heart, providing a better look at the heart functions and detecting the heart’s motion, chamber sizes, and blood flow. 

What are the most common forms of heart disease in dogs?

The most common forms of heart disease in dogs are often specific to the type of breed. Smaller breeds typically experience mitral valve disease, which affects the valve on the left side of the heart. Larger breeds can have several heart issues, including chamber enlargement. Valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) are two other common conditions, along with heart arrhythmias and murmurs. More than ten percent of dogs will develop cardiovascular disease, and some dogs have congenital heart abnormalities acquired at birth. 

What is congestive heart failure in dogs?

Heart failure is when the dog’s heart fails to work correctly. The heart works like a pump, circulating blood from the body and into the lungs, where it is oxygenated. The blood then flows back into the heart, where the heart pumps it back into the body for the cycle to repeat continuously. Congestive heart failure in dogs occurs when the blood does not flow properly through this cycle.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of cardiovascular disease in dogs so important?

Early detection of cardiovascular disease in dogs is critical because the heart is such an essential organ and vital to your dog’s overall health and well-being. When diagnosed early, we can promptly start your dog on medications to help slow down the progression of the disease and manage daily symptoms. The earlier we identify the disease, the better the prognosis will be. 

What types of preventive care can help a dog avoid cardiovascular disease?

There are several ways to prevent cardiovascular disease in dogs, many of which mirror what humans should do to maintain a healthy heart.

Ways to prevent cardiovascular disease in dogs include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Maintaining an ideal weight
  • Maintaining a healthy diet

When it comes to your dog’s diet, maintaining a healthy heart goes beyond ensuring they don’t consume too many calories. Certain dog diet trends have been linked to heart disease in dogs, as detailed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

If you have further questions about heart disease in dogs, we would encourage you to speak with a dog cardiologist. If you live in or near Las Vegas, NV, we’d love to see your dog for an exam to make sure their heart is in top health, so please don’t hesitate to call us at (702) 213-4513.