species: click on a picture:
Heart failure can occur in dogs of all breeds, weights and
ages, but is most common among older dogs. In fact, it
affects 25% of all dogs over the age of 7. If left
untreated it can be fatal, but thanks to modern veterinary
medicine, dogs with heart failure can live longer,
healthier, more active lives.
Anatomy of the heart
Several factors may contribute to a failing heart. When the
heart is not pumping properly, perhaps because of a faulty
valve or a weakened muscle, the dog’s body may try to
compensate by making the sick heart work even harder. Over
a long period of time, this may do more harm than good.
Causes of heart disease in dogs include parasites
(heartworms), infections, congenital defects, and
nutritional deficiencies among others:
• Aortic Stenosis
• Heart Attacks
• Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis)
• Mitral Valve Insufficiency: A Cause of Heart Failure
• Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
• Persistent Right Aortic Arch (PRAA)
• Pulmonic (Pulmonary) Stenosis
• Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)
While your veterinarian checks your dog’s heart regularly,
many of the early warning signs of heart failure will be
most obvious to you at home. Alert your veterinarian at
once if you notice any of the following:
• Coughing (especially at night)
• Lack of energy
• Loss of appetite
Your vet can perform a thorough heart exam to determine if
your dog has heart disease.
If your dog is diagnosed with heart failure, don’t fear the
worst. Just like humans, millions of dogs are living
relatively normal lives despite their heart conditions.
Modern science has devised drugs that break the vicious
cycle of heart failure, reducing the strain on the heart.
Often, just one tablet a day can vastly improve the quality
of life for a dog with heart failure. With proper
medication, fluid build-up is reduced, coughing can
disappear and appetite can return. As the dog is generally
less tired, he can regain his enthusiasm for exercise and
play and you will enjoy his new lease on life as much as he
So, if you’ve noticed that your dog hasn’t been acting
himself lately, talk to your vet about a heart exam.