Heart disease is unfortunately a common condition in older dogs. There are several different causes but the treatment is often similar. Heart disease may be picked up at a routine vet appointment such as an annual vaccination, or the signs might be noticed by the owner, for example collapsing when out on a walk, becoming breathless, coughing.
The two most common diseases in dogs are:
- Mitral Valve Disease (MVD), particularly common in older, smaller dogs. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are particularly prone to this condition. The disease is usually picked up by the vet hearing a heart murmur (caused by leaky heart valves) at a routine appointment
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) which is more common in larger breed dogs and can affect young to middle-aged dogs as well as old. Dobermans are commonly affected. This disease causes the heart muscle to become thin and weak and pump inefficiently. The disease can cause a heart murmur or irregular heart beat but there may not be any obvious sign until the dog goes into heart failure.
The sooner heart disease is detected, the better. Early treatment in both of the most common conditions has now been shown to improve length and quality of life. Regular check-ups are important for any heart murmur or irregular heart beat to be detected, but if you notice any other signs that give you cause for concern, get your dog checked over as soon as possible.
These signs could include:
- struggling to cope with exercise
- getting out of breath / panting a lot