Patent ductus arteriosus is a hereditary health condition that affects the heart, and it relates to the ductus arteriosus, a blood vessel that connects the pulmonary artery to the aorta. This is a vital blood vessel that helps with the oxygenation and circulation of blood throughout the body of pups whilst in utero, but that closes up naturally in healthy pups within a couple of days of birth, because it is no longer needed when the umbilical cord is cut.
However, in some puppies, the ductus arteriosus doesn’t naturally close up as it should after delivery, and this causes an additional, unnecessary circulation of blood through the heart, which places the heart under more stress than is healthy.
The level of severity of any case of patent ductus arteriosus can be quite variable, but in extreme presentations of the condition, it can lead to heart failure at a young age in affected pups.
Because patent ductus arteriosus is a hereditary health condition, it is more commonly seen across certain dog breeds than most others, a fact that prospective buyers of puppies from such breeds should be aware of.
Whilst there is no DNA test available to determine whether or not any given litter of puppies will inherit patent ductus arteriosus from their parents, there is a heart screening scheme in place that many dog breed clubs advise their member breeders to make use of, in order to identify the risk factors for patent ductus arteriosus and other heart problems in their breed lines.
In this article we will look at the dog breeds for which patent ductus arteriosus is considered to be a risk, and how dogs can be heart screened to identify their risk factors. Read on to learn more.
Patent ductus arteriosus is more prevalent across certain dog breeds than others, and breeding from dogs with affected hearts or elevated risk factors for problems can result in the ever-widening spread of the condition within the breed’s gene pool.
Patent ductus arteriosus is more common in female dogs than males, and more common within the following dog breeds:
Genetic anomalies, flaws and mutations can and do occur organically within generations of dogs that have no prior predisposition to them, and this is how hereditary health conditions first develop within dogs as a whole. However, breeding from dogs that have a hereditary health condition or elevated risk factors due to a family or breed history of the condition serves to spread the genetic fault across ever-increasing numbers of dogs, which can lead to them becoming prevalent within the breed line.
This makes it harder to find unrelated, healthy dogs to achieve mating matches from, and raises the risks of any given puppy inheriting the disorder themselves – and of course, passing it on themselves later on.
Currently, there is no DNA test available to identify the markers of patent ductus arteriosus in parent dog breeding stock and so, to predict the odds for their respective litters. Knowing the family history of any given puppy and whether or not their parents or any other close relatives themselves had patent ductus arteriosus can help to predict the risks for the pup in question – but this is not an exact science.
There is, however, a heart screening scheme available for dogs that helps to identify heart problems before they present with symptoms, and anyone considering buying a puppy from one of the above-mentioned breeds is advised to ask the breeder if their dogs were screened prior to breeding, and to ask to see their test results.
There is a heart screening protocol in place that is run by the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), which is tasked with identifying the physical early warning signals of a number of common and serious heart conditions that can affect dogs.
The screening process seeks to identify cardiac abnormalities and heart murmurs, and to collate information on issues that arise across certain dog breeds to form the basis of further research and investigation.
Anyone can have their dog’s heart screened in this way, but various breed clubs concerned with the welfare and improvement of their respective breeds often run testing schemes in association with the BSAVA, encouraging their members to take part and submit their dog’s own results for recording and research purposes.
Many breed clubs for the breeds we outlined above encourage heart health scheme participation, and often, offer subsidies and discounts for testing too. If you are interested in having your dog tested and are a member of a breed club, check with them first in order to benefit from any discounts available, and then ask your vet to book you an appointment for your dog to get checked out as part of the scheme.