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Heart disease can affect dogs of any age, and its symptoms can be debilitating. Coughing, breathlessness and fluid in their lungs and abdomen mean that life isn’t as much fun as it used to be .
Let’s look at the most common causes of heart disease in our canine companions.
Heartworm is a major cause of heart disease in dogs. This parasite is spread by mosquitoes and interferes with the circulation of blood through the heart and lungs. It also causes severe inflammation in the major blood vessels to the lungs. Although it can be treated, it’s better to prevent disease in the first place by giving your dog daily, monthly or yearly medication to kill these worms.
Genetic inheritance plays a major part in canine heart disease. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes are a few of the breeds that battle inherited cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Responsible breeders are testing their breeding dogs for this disease in an effort to eradicate it from their breed.
Obesity can contribute to heart disease in dogs just as it does to humans. While dogs don’t seem to suffer from the arterial disease that overweight people do, their heart still has to work harder than it should to pump blood around their obese body.
Heart valve degeneration can occur as dogs age. The valves are important in keeping blood flowing in the right direction as the heart pumps. If they don’t work, the heart doesn’t work properly, and the result is symptoms of heart failure.
Your veterinarian will suspect heart disease based on your description of your dog’s symptoms. From there, a more accurate diagnosis can be gained with the use of x-rays and ultrasound.
There are drugs that can help treat heart disease in dogs. Diuretics help to remove excess fluid from the lungs, and other drugs increase the strength of the heart muscle, so it contracts more effectively. A third group of drugs open up the blood vessels so that there is less resistance to blood flow, and the blood is more likely to go in the right direction.
In Summary – With appropriate treatment, dogs with heart disease can enjoy a good quality of life for many years.
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