What Are the Common Signs of Heart Disease in Dogs?

When your canine companion isn’t their usual tail-wagging self, it’s natural to worry. Heart disease in dogs is a concerning issue, but knowing the common signs can help you promptly seek proper care. Let’s share a heartfelt moment and chat about the signs that might indicate your dog could be dealing with a heart condition. Stay informed is critical to offering your furry friend the best life possible.

Spotting the Red Flags

Heart disease in dogs can manifest in various ways, and the signs may vary depending on the specific type of heart condition and its severity. However, some common signs of heart disease in dogs include:

1. Coughing

  • Persistent coughing is often one of dogs’ earliest signs of heart disease. The cough may be dry and hacking or moist and productive, with the presence of frothy or pink-tinged sputum indicating potential fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Dogs may cough more frequently during or after exercise or while lying down, as changes in body position can exacerbate respiratory symptoms.

2. Difficulty Breathing

  • Dogs with heart disease may experience dyspnea or difficulty breathing due to the heart’s impaired ability to pump blood effectively. They may exhibit labored breathing, characterized by rapid, shallow breaths or increased respiratory effort. Dogs may also exhibit open-mouth breathing, panting, or wheezing as they struggle to obtain sufficient oxygen.

  • One of the best things you can do for your pet’s heart is to keep up with regular health checks, including a dog wellness check in Dallas. These examinations are vital because they help detect issues before they become serious. During a wellness exam, your vet will listen to your dog’s heart, check for any irregularities, and might suggest further tests if something seems off. It’s all about catching those subtle signs early on.

3. Exercise Intolerance

  • Dogs with heart disease may demonstrate reduced exercise tolerance and stamina. They may become quickly tired during physical activity and less enthusiastic about engaging in exercise or play. Reluctance to participate in activities that were once enjoyed can be a subtle indication of underlying cardiac issues.

4. Weakness or Collapse

  • In advanced stages of heart disease, dogs may experience episodes of weakness, lethargy, or collapse, often triggered by exertion, excitement, or stress. These episodes, known as syncope or fainting spells, occur when the heart’s compromised function leads to insufficient oxygen delivery to the brain and other vital organs.

5. Elevated Heart Rate

  • Dogs with heart disease may have an elevated resting heart rate (tachycardia) as the heart works harder to compensate for its diminished pumping capacity. A veterinarian can assess the heart rate during a physical examination and monitor changes in heart rate over time to gauge the progression of the disease.

6. Heart Murmur

  • A heart murmur is an abnormal sound detected during auscultation of the heart using a stethoscope. In dogs with heart disease, murmurs may result from turbulent blood flow within the heart or blood vessels due to structural abnormalities, valve dysfunction, or fluid overload. The murmur’s intensity, location, and timing can provide valuable diagnostic information about the underlying cardiac condition.

7. Fluid Retention

  • Dogs with heart disease may develop fluid retention, leading to visible signs such as abdominal distension (ascites) or swelling of the limbs (peripheral edema). Ascites occur when fluid accumulates within the abdominal cavity, causing abdominal enlargement and discomfort. Peripheral edema manifests as swelling of the limbs, particularly in the lower extremities, due to fluid leakage from blood vessels into the surrounding tissues.

8. Weight Loss or Poor Appetite

  • Some dogs with advanced heart disease may experience weight loss or a decreased appetite, often secondary to systemic illness, medication side effects, or metabolic changes associated with congestive heart failure (CHF). Reduced caloric intake and metabolic inefficiencies can contribute to muscle wasting and weight loss despite adequate nutritional intake.

  • You might not think of teeth when you worry about your dog’s heart, but oral health plays a significant role. An animal dentist in Dallas can help prevent dental issues that can lead to infections spreading to the heart. By keeping your dog’s teeth clean, you’re also taking care of their heart. And if you’re in Dallas, you’ve got access to top-notch dental care for your pet.

9. Cyanosis

  • In severe cases of heart disease, dogs may exhibit cyanosis, characterized by bluish discoloration of the mucous membranes (e.g., gums, lips) or the skin due to inadequate blood oxygenation. Cyanosis is a sign of hypoxemia, indicating that oxygen levels in the bloodstream are critically low and tissues are not receiving sufficient oxygen supply.

10. Behavioral Changes

  • Dogs with chronic pain, discomfort, or fatigue associated with heart disease may exhibit behavior, mood, or activity level changes. They may appear lethargic, withdrawn, or less responsive to stimuli, preferring to rest or sleep rather than engage in everyday activities. Behavioral changes can be subtle indicators of underlying illness and should prompt further evaluation by a veterinarian.

Pet owners should monitor their dogs for signs of heart disease, especially as they age or if they have predisposing factors like breed-related cardiac conditions or a history of heart murmurs. Early detection and intervention can improve outcomes and quality of life, highlighting the importance of regular veterinary exams, diagnostic testing, and tailored management. 

If your vet has concerns about your dog’s heart, they might refer you to a pet cardiologist. These specialists can delve deeper into your dog’s symptoms and provide advanced care.

Maintaining a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Here are ways you can support your dog’s heart health:

  • Feed them a balanced, heart-healthy diet.

  • Ensure they get regular, but not strenuous, exercise.

  • Visit the vet for regular health checks.

  • Keep their teeth in top shape to prevent dental disease.

Taking these steps will offer your dog the best defense against heart disease. And isn’t that what every dog owner wants—to see their puppy live a long, joyful life?

Final Thoughts

Tending to your dog’s heart health is an ongoing commitment. It’s about making lifestyle choices that contribute to their well-being. It’s about not skipping those routine visits and listening to your vet’s advice. By understanding the signs and taking proactive measures, you hold the leash to steer your dog towards a healthier future. So keep an eye out, keep in touch with your vet, and keep your dog’s heart beating strong. They’re counting on you.