General symptoms of heart conditions in dogs that every owner should know
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General symptoms of heart conditions in dogs that every owner should know

Dogs
Health & Safety

We all hope that our dogs will live to a ripe old age in good health, without any serious health problems or scares that might cause problems or even shorten our dog’s lifespan. Learning that your dog has a potentially serious health issue – like a heart problem – is of course very worrying, and news that we hope never to hear.

However, for the vast majority of canine health conditions, being able to treat and cure a condition or at least manage it effectively to preserve the dog’s quality of life and extend their lifespan relies upon early diagnosis and intervention. This means that by learning to identify when something is amiss with your dog and knowing the symptoms of some potentially serious health issues in dogs allows you to get a head start on tackling the issue, and gives your dog the best possible chance of survival.

Heart conditions in dogs come in many different forms, and can range in severity from so mild that they will probably never cause problems, to acute, serious and potentially life-threatening. The nature of heart problems in dogs too mean that the symptoms that your dog displays can be quite variable and appear in a number of different ways, not all of which obviously relate to the heart itself.

In this article we will outline some of the general or systemic symptoms of heart conditions in dogs that may serve as your first warning that something is wrong. This can help you to get your dog to the vet for examination and diagnosis as soon as possible, and enable them to have the best chance of recovery.

Read on to learn more about some of the general symptoms of heart conditions in dogs that every owner should know.

Exercise intolerance

Many heart conditions will only really become apparent when your dog is exercising, as this makes the heart work harder to pump blood and oxygenate the body. This in turn can make the effects of many different types of canine heart conditions more pronounced, and lead to exercise intolerance and a reluctance to play and exercise, or your dog taking a long time to recover after exertion.

As is the case with most dog heart condition symptoms, these symptoms are also common to a number of other conditions too, and so a proper veterinary exam and diagnosis is vital.

Breathing and respiratory symptoms

If your dog’s heart isn’t working properly or doesn’t cope well under pressure, it won’t be able to oxygenate your dog’s body properly either. This can result in the poor tolerance for exercise we outlined above, and also generate a range of other breathing and respiratory symptoms too, even when your dog is at rest.

If your dog seems to get breathless easily, gets wheezy when exercising, or particularly if they have a persistent, chronic soft cough and there is no obvious reason for this, your dog may have a heart problem that you should ask your vet to investigate.

Behavioural changes

Not all heart problems are painful or uncomfortable for your dog, but some are. This, combined with the other effects and limitations that a heart problem in your dog can cause, may lead to changes in your dog’s temperament, or the development of out of character behaviours.

A general lack of interest in what is going on around them, reluctance to play and exercise, or snappy, defensive or other out of character behaviours can indicate many potential causes, of which heart problems are just one.

However, any behavioural changes of this type, and if your dog simply seems quieter than normal or reluctant to interact with you, requires further investigation to ensure that there is not a health problem at the bottom of things.

Loss of condition

Because the heart is an internal organ, many of the symptoms heart problems in dogs cause are systemic or generalised, much like those outlined above. Another potential indicator of a heart problem in dogs is a general loss of condition, or failure to thrive – such as if your dog loses weight for no obvious reason, loses muscle tone or condition, or begins to look rather unkempt with a dull coat and skin when there is no external cause for this.

Dogs with heart conditions may also go off their food or be reluctant to eat, and they may show a range of other symptoms too that combined, all indicate that something isn’t quite right.

What to do if you have any concerns

None of the symptoms outlined above (either alone or in combination) definitively indicate a heart problem in your dog, and all of them can develop for a wide variety of other reasons too. However, whilst such symptoms on their own might seem mild or like things that might resolve themselves, they might also indicate a heart problem that could be managed or even possibly cured with prompt intervention.

Talk to your vet if you have any concerns, and ask them to examine your dog and run some tests if necessary to get to the bottom of things.

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