How to Recognize Heart Disease in Dogs

January 19, 2019
Dogs can suffer from heart disease just like humans can and in this article we'll point out the danger signs.

Heart disease affects many dogs, especially when the animal ages. However, heart problems are not the same in large and small dogs. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs that could be signalling heart failure in dogs, and learn how to “take your pet’s pulse.”

Heart disease in dogs

A dog with a veterinarian.

Just like human hearts, dogs’ hearts can also fail. Different pathologies and ailments can develop, due to several factors, and depending on the size of the animal.

The difference between small and large dogs is that, in the case of the former, the damage is frequent in the valves of the heart. Meanwhile, in the large ones the cardiac cavity can’t return the blood to the rest of the body.

What usually happens is that the bacteria that infect small dogs’ mouths eventually affect the valves of the heart, which control how the blood enters and leaves the heart. This can cause a disease called valvular insufficiency.

In the case of big dogs, this happens when the heart that grows so much that the valves aren’t touching each other. In these cases, the cardiac area can’t return the blood to the rest of the body.

Signs that indicate heart failure in the dog

An animal that tires excessively by exercising, playing or going on walks may be suffering from a heart problem. The heart of the pet with this insufficiency is struggling to pump blood with oxygen. Because of this, not enough blood will reach the muscles. As a result, there will be breathing problems and the need to inhale air more and more frequently.

Coughing in the dog is another sign that the dog may be suffering from a heart condition. The veterinarian will be able to tell you if it’s a heart condition.

How to find your dog’s pulse at home

Measuring our dog’s pulse at home will be a good way to prevent a potential heart failure in time. To carry out this operation, we’ll need to try to get the animal to lie on its side. However we mustn’t force it; it must feel relaxed. Next, we should place our fingers (except the thumb) to the middle of the animal’s thigh, as in this area it is easier to find its pulse.

Then count the number of pulses for 15 seconds, multiplying the number of beats by four, to get the number of heartbeats per minute. We must repeat the operation to make sure that the count has been correct, in order to detect if there really is a heart problem.

As a reference, a dog that weighs around 25 pounds will have a heartbeat that oscillates between 100 and 160 per minute. If the animal exceeds that weight, then the heartbeats should be 60-100 per minute.

Healthy habits for the dog’s cardiovascular health

The same as with humans, physical exercise is key to maintain our pet’s health. It’s highly recommended that the dog has a walk of at least half an hour a day. In this way, in addition to the health of the heart, we’ll be helping to avoid obesity, a dangerous problem for the animal and this vital organ.

It’s worth remembering the peculiarity of the flat-faced dogs. Due to their physiognomy, they have breathing problems due to the constitution of their head and snout. Therefore it’s especially important to try to prevent any type of heart disease in these breeds.

Adequate nutrition

A dog eating from its bowl.

Food can also contribute to heart disease in dogs. From puppyhood, it’s necessary to adapt the diet to each of its vital phases. We must consider that small dogs have a faster metabolism, and therefore their heart problems tend to be more frequent.

As with people, the animal’s diet should be low in salt. In addition, taurine is an amino acid nutrient that is in the proteins of fish, chicken, and veal, among other foods. We can also find it in some nutritional supplements. All these will be excellent for preventing heart problems in your beloved pet.