Knowing what health issues your dog is susceptible to gives you the chance to catch a malady early when you have ample time to modify it. When the issue concerns the heart, you can slow down the disease before it progresses to heart failure. If you own or plan to adopt one of the following breeds, you need to watch for symptoms they may exhibit that are common to heart disease.
1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
The incidence of degenerative mitral valve disease (DMVD) occurs more frequently in this breed than any other. Fifty percent of Cavaliers develop a heart murmur, indicating onset of the disease, by age 5, and 100 percent by age 10. With DMVD, a leaky mitral valve causes blood to go backward into the left atrium of the heart. (Usually this valve closes when the heart contracts and the blood moves forward into the body.)
Because the condition is inherited, we can’t do much to prevent it. Early symptoms of congestive heart failure include decreased exercise tolerance, labored breathing, and coughing. If you notice any of these, see your veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian detects a heart murmur, he may refer you to a veterinary cardiologist. Otherwise, schedule annual checkups with your general practice veterinarian until the dog reaches age 6 and then twice a year after that.
Dachshunds often develop a leaky heart valve, or DMVD. DMVD usually appears in this breed between 8 and 10 years of age. Regular annual veterinary checkups should reveal this condition early. As a Dachshund ages, you should increase those examinations to every six months, so the condition can be addressed before it becomes problematic.
DMVD can be controlled by medication. It also helps to keep the dog’s weight down so the heart doesn’t have to work harder than normal.
3. Miniature And Toy Poodles
Degenerative mitral valve disease usually develops in middle age in these smaller breeds. We see an even higher incidence in the elderly population. The valve on the left side of the heart becomes structurally thickened, which makes the blood flow backward, causing a heart murmur.
This enlarges the heart and triggers heart failure. Catching it early is the key so the disease can be treated with medications, a sodium-restricted diet, and fish oil supplements.
4. Doberman Pinschers
Dobermans are at risk for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease of the heart muscle that causes the left ventricle to enlarge and cease functioning correctly. In the early or later phase of the disease, bad arrhythmias may develop that can be life threatening. As the disease progresses, an affected dog may faint, lose weight, exhibit shortness of breath, cough, or retain fluid that causes his belly to distend.
DCM occurs more frequently in male Dobermans. If you know your Doberman’s family history and it includes incidences of DCM, tell your veterinarian so he or she can watch for symptoms, especially a heart murmur or abnormal heart rhythm. Annual exams should be ramped up to twice yearly when your dog reaches 4 years of age.
Boxers are susceptible to arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). ARVC is a genetic heart disease that results from fatty cells being deposited in the right ventricle muscle crowding out the normal cells.
This can result in ventricular arrhythmias (life-threatening heart rhythm abnormality). In early stages, dogs may display bad heart arrhythmias which affects their exercise ability and often results in fainting and, sadly, even sudden death.
6. Golden Retrievers
The most common congenital heart disease seen in Goldens is aortic stenosis. The aortic valve doesn’t form properly during gestation, and when the dog is born, the valve sticks. That makes the heart muscle thicken.
The narrowing of the valve can be mild, moderate, or severe. Most common in larger breeds, aortic stenosis may be apparent at birth if it’s in the moderate or severe stage. Milder cases usually appear in the dog’s first year. Ask your general practice veterinarian to listen for a heart murmur if you have a Golden puppy.