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The Dog Heart And Canine Heart Disease

The dog heart is a four chambered muscle that pumps blood throughout the canine body. The four chambers of the dog heart are separated by valves. Blood enters the heart carrying carbon dioxide and other waste products, and when functioning normally the blood leaving the heart should leave rich in oxygen - carrying energy to the rest of the body as it is strongly pumped from the heart. Unfortunately, problems can occur with this process and dog heart problems are somewhat common. As with people, the chances of cardiac disease and canine heart failure increase as your pet ages.
Possible causes of canine heart disease and eventual failure include endocardiosis, valvular disease and dilated cardiomyopothy. Dog heart problems can be acquired as they go through life, sometimes simply from wear and tear or also through infection or injury. A dog can also be born with cardiac birth defects, some of which may or may not have been inherited - these are often diagnosed early while the dog is still a puppy.
dog heart patient under going a canine heart failure exam to determine the cause of the heart disease and to decide potential medication and treatment options

Canine Heart Murmurs And Symptoms Of Canine Heart Failure

There are several potential causes of heart problems in dogs and early diagnosis often begins with an annual exam, at which time your dog's veterinarian will likely check your dog's heart for an abnormal heart rate, an irregular heartbeat or the sound of canine heart murmurs. Valve disease is one of the most common dog heart diseases and it usually occurs when the valves between the chamber of the dog heart do not seal as tightly as they should and blood is pumped backwards causing a noise - a noise otherwise known as canine heart murmurs. Dilated Cardiomyopathy, DCM for short, is another common dog heart disease problem. DCM is a kind of canine heart failure where the heart muscle itself is weak and does not efficiently or adequately pump blood through the dog's body. Dilated Cardiomyopathy can cause the heart to enlarge making inadequate cardiac performance an ever increasing problem. Congestive heart failure in dogs is a term used to describe the hearts inability to pump out enough blood, secondary problems associated with this typically include a fluid build up in the lungs, liver or abdominal cavity.
If your veterinarian hears a heart murmer, which can sometimes be heard with a simple stethoscope, or if they have seen symptoms that make the two of you suspect your dog may have a heart problem, then your veterinarian may wish to conduct tests. Potential heart disease tests include an electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, blood and chemical profile, urinalysis, proBNP, doppler exam, a blood pressure test or radiograph - which collectively can help provide insight into heart rate, cardiac rhythm, blood flow, cardiac efficiency, heart anatomy and functional capabilities. Which tests are run will likely depend on what condition your pets doctor suspects is causing the suspected problem.
Some dog heart disease symptoms to watch for include, but are not limited to, coughing, lethargy, depression, poor appetite, difficulty breathing, weight loss, swollen abdomen and night time restlessness. Dogs do not typically collapse and die suddenly of a heart attack in the fashion that humans are known to do, their heart related episodes are more subtle and come on slower. However, canine heart problems can sometimes cause your dogs to experience pain in their forearms which can result in them stretching their legs out or even stretching their neck sideways or craning it backwards - this can be an indicator that a serious heart condition is occurring. Fainting of course is also an indicator of a serious heart failure issue and it must be addressed by your veterinarian immediately. Seizures can also be heart related. Other potential causes of canine heart problems include heartworms and tumors.
Most dog heart diseases will eventually result in canine heart failure where the dog heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. The bad news is that canine heart failure is seldom "curable" but the good news is that there are medications that can help improve their quality of life, hopefully allowing them to feel better and live longer.

Medication And Treatment Options For Dog Heart Problems

There are several medications available to treat dog heart problems. These fall into several categories including, but not limited to, ACE-Inhibitor Vasodilators, Inodilators, Beta Blockers, Bronchodilators, Digitalis and Diuretic meds.
ACE-Inhibitors such as enalapril, lisinopril and benazepril help decrease the effort the heart has to exert to pump blood, they do this by relaxing the blood vessels throughout the body. This also helps lower blood pressure. Drugs such as these that help dilate the blood vessels are known as vasodilators. These medications can have potential side effects. One side effect that ace inhibitors share with diuretics, is that they can have a negative effect on the kidneys, so subsequently most veterinarians will want to monitor the kidneys for potential side effects or damage.
Inodilators, such as vetmedin are canine heart medications that both increase myocardial contractility and help open up constricted blood vessels thus reducing the general workload on the heart. Vetmedin is quickly becoming a standard treatment for atrioventricular valvular insufficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy congestive heart failure.
Beta Blocker medications such as atenolol are often prescribed to help treat an irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) in dogs, in other words, to help stabilize the heart beat. atenolol can also help lower high blood pressure problems.
Bronchodilators such as theophylline and aminophylline, are often used to help treat the secondary respiratory problems that heart failure can cause including asthma or breathing and lung issues. Bronchodilators work by improving breathing function in the respiratory system, rather than working within the regions of the heart directly.
Digitalis compounds such as digoxin are sometimes prescribed because they can help increase the force of the heart contractions, but they can have side effects that include vomiting, depression, loss of appetite, and, cardiac rhythm abnormalities. Careful monitoring to fine tune the best med dosage will be critical when using these drugs.
In some cases, surgery is another treatment option for canine heart failure. There are canine cardiologists available today and some surgery options once available only to people are now available for dogs too, including blood vessel adjustments, canine pacemakers, pericardium catheters to drain excess fluid and balloons to reduce constriction.
Once your dog has been diagnosed with canine heart failure you can expect to be required to keep a close eye on them including frequent trips to the veterinarian, especially during the early treatment stages. This is to ensure the treatment is working and without harmful side effects. Treatment may also include a special food, limited salt intake, treat restrictions or a prescription required veterinary diet food product. As with people who have heart problems, exercise can sometimes be a good thing but under certain conditions it can also be harmful too, in fact your dog's doctor may prescribe rest instead of exercise - your veterinarian should know what will be best for your specific pet.
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Heartworm Disease
Heartworm problems begin for your canine when an infected mosquito bites your dog where it releases a heartworm larvae into the bloodstream. From there the larvae travels toward your dog's heart where it will then mature into the worm stage. Most canine heartworm medications attack the heartworm in the larvae stage before it reaches the heart. Heartworms are preventable.
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