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Dog enlarged heart

Canine Enlarged Heart - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Life Expectancy and Prognosis of Enlarged Heart in Dogs

An enlarged heart is the most common reason for heart failure in dogs.

It is characterized by the enlargement of the heart chambers and a reduction in the heart’s contraction capability. The most commonly affected ventricle is the left ventricle; however, in advanced conditions, all of the heart’s chambers are involved. In this disease, the dog’s enlarged heart cannot pump the required amount of blood and the heart muscle becomes thin and fluffy. The most commonly affected breeds are the large breeds such as Doberman pinschers, Irish wolfhounds, Scottish Deer hound, boxer, and Afghan hound.

Causes and Symptoms of Enlarged Heart in Dogs


The known causes of enlarged heart in dogs are not obvious every time. However, the most common causes are genetically related, due to a viral infection, or due to some nutritional deficiency. When the condition worsens, it results in heart failure and sadly, after a year or two, in the death of your dog.

The well known symptoms for enlarged heart in dogs are as follows:

  • Lack of energy/depression: One of the most common symptoms where dog shows exercise intolerance due to poor heart function and inadequate blood supply to the body.
  • Poor appetite: Due to inadequate blood flow and poor digestion.
  • Weight loss: Related to the poor appetite.
  • Labored breathing: Dogs feel breathlessness and suffocation due to congestion in the lungs.
  • Coughing: The increase in blood pressure inside the ventricles leads to the leaking out of fluid into the lungs; this cause coughing.
  • Weakness and fainting: Due to weak hurt muscles, The hurt is unable to to contract fully and supply blood properly.
  • Swollen abdomen (Ascites): Also known as edema, this is caused due to inadequate blood supply.

    The body releases certain hormones to compensate for the fluid deficiency. These fluids get deposited near the stomach and limbs, causing pain.
In order to make a diagnosis, the veterinarian will perform a heart examination to detect any abnormal heart sounds and other abnormalities, so that he/she can determine the exact condition of the heart. The common diagnostic techniques used by a veterinarian are:
  • Auscultation: Using a stethoscope to hear the heart’s sound in order to detect any abnormalities.
  • Chest X ray: To know the size and shape of the lungs and the heart’s chambers.
  • Ultrasound examination: Provides more precise information about the heart’s structure.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): Is a screening test to find out abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmias.

Enlarged heart disease in dogs cannot be cured. However, it can be treated as per the diagnosed symptoms in dogs. In general, medicines are prescribed to treat the symptoms related to heart failure. Drugs are prescribed to maintain proper blood pressure and ensure proper blood flow. Along with the medicines, proper care and rest is required to avoid heart failure.


Enlarged Heart In Dogs Treatment, Life Expectancy and Prognosis

A chronic condition wherein a dog’s heart is enlarged can be considered to be a difficult condition for any vet to diagnose.

To help identify this condition of an enlarged heart, some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for include the dog showing signs of difficulty while breathing, coughing or hacking, a swollen or enlarged abdomen which will fill with fluid and then eventually collapse. There is no proper cure for a dog suffering from this particular condition. Nevertheless, there are some drugs that can help in prolonging the ailing dog’s life. The main reasons for the occurrence of this condition are not really known. This particular condition is associated normally with taurine deficiencies. It is also associated with adriamycin deficiencies.

The condition of enlarged heart in older dogs is a lot more common as compared to enlarged heart in puppies. Normally it is older, middle aged dogs that get affected and males more than females. An enlarged heart in small dogs is rarely observed. This condition of an enlarged heart is largely noticed among the breeds like the Saint Bernard’s, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Cocker Spaniels, German Shephards and Labrador Retrievers. There are no obvious signs during the initial phase of this condition.  Veterinarians usually make use of Echocardiography’s, x-rays or Electrocardiography to help in diagnosing this problem. Over a period of time this problem can culminate in the dog suffering from a heart failure. Usually, most of the symptoms are observed once the disease is quite advanced. When dealing with an enlarged heart in dogs, treatment appears to be most successful with Cocker Spaniels, as they seem to respond to treatment a lot better. Normally dogs with an enlarged heart condition will have a shorter life expectancy. The enlarged heart in dog prognosis is usually about 6 months in Doberman breeds, from the time the condition is diagnosed.

In dogs too, the heart comprises of four chambers. Normally a healthy dog will have a heart beat that ranges between 65 beats to about 160 beats; this is the typical heart rate when at rest. Smaller puppies are seen to have exceedingly fast heart rates. These can range from 200 to 220 beats in a minute. Heart disease is generally common among dogs. Studies indicate that congenital heart disease among dogs occurs largely due to hereditary factors. It is vital for all breeders of any dogs to ensure that they screen all dogs that that are likely to suffer from this  condition starting from 6 weeks and continuing till about 8 weeks of age. When dealing with an enlarged heart in a dog the diet will always have to be a nutritious and extremely healthy. Always ensure that one’s dog, much like humans, consumes quality food. Junk food is likely to increase the chances of a dog suffering from heart disease.  One can try and add omega 3 supplements to a dog’s diet in some way. Usually a vet can prescribe some omega 3 fatty acid supplements in the way of capsules that can be mixed with the dog’s food and fed to it. It is also important to make sure that the dog gets adequate exercise. This can go a long way to ensure that the dog stays healthy and fit. Another important point to note is that all dog breeders and owners should ensure that their dogs’ teeth are kept particularly clean. This is of utmost importance mainly because a dog suffering from any periodontal disease is more prone to the development of a condition of the liver or kidney. In many cases the neglect of periodontal disease is linked to the development of heart disease.

  Submitted on September 26, 2011  

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