Heart Conditions In Dogs

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Dogs can either be born with a heart condition or develop it as they get older. Although heart disease can affect dogs at any age, the condition is more common in geriatric canines. In fact, about 10 percent of dogs between 5 to 8 years of age and 25 percent of dogs 9 to 12 years old have some sort of heart problem. There are three common types of heart conditions in dogs:

  • Congestive Heart Failure: when the heart doesn’t function to its full capacity. In most cases, it is a consequence of high blood pressure, heartworm disease, and other heart problems that are left untreated for long periods.
  • Heartworm: Most people are familiar with heartworm disease, but not many get their dogs tested. As time passes, adult heartworms develop in the valves of the heart, causing complications, such as an enlarged heart and poor blood circulation.
  • Cardiomyopathy: Dogs with this condition have enlarged heart muscle because the heart has to work harder to be more efficient.


Dogs in the first stages of heart disease don’t usually show signs. However, if symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Exercise intolerance
  • Heart murmur or arrhythmias
  • Coughing
  • Blue or purplish gums/tongue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Slow or rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing


A thorough physical exam along with some tests is necessary for diagnosing heart conditions in dogs. Most veterinarians will first rule out heartworms disease; this can be done with a 15-minute, in-house blood test. Other tests that can help in diagnosing heart disease include X-rays, EKG, and echocardiogram. You can also get a referral to a veterinary cardiologist for further testing done, such as MRI, CAT scan, and cardiac stress test.

Treatment Options

If there’s an underlying issue, such as heartworms, it will have to be treated along with the symptoms. Otherwise, a combination of drugs, special diet, and exercise is the usual treatment for heart conditions in dogs. Medications commonly used include:

  • ACE Inhibitors: These types of drugs lower blood pressure and dilate heart vessels so that the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood through the body.
  • Diuretics: If fluid accumulates in the heart or lungs, diuretic drugs can be prescribed to get rid of the excess fluid.
  • Blood Thinners: Drugs, such as aspirin, are sometimes used to lower the risk of blood clots developing in dogs.
  • Pimobendan: This drug helps dilate the heart’s blood vessels and increases the force in which the heart contracts.
  • Supplements: Taurine, antioxidants, and other supplements can be beneficial for dogs with a heart condition.


Some ways you can help prevent heart disease in your dog include regular check-ups, staying up to date on dental cleaning (bacteria from the mouth can enter the blood stream and cause heart disease), provide sufficient exercise, and feed a well-balanced diet.