Learning that your dog has a heart defect or disorder can be very frightening for any dog owner, but heart problems in dogs don’t always signal the dog’s impending demise and in many cases, will have little to no impact on their quality of life or longevity.
Canine heart problems come in many different varieties and can be hugely variable in terms of their impact and severity too, and whilst heart problems do need to be taken seriously and treated with the appropriate respect, they are not necessarily a huge deal for the dogs diagnosed with them.
Some canine heart problems are congenital and present from birth whilst others tend to develop more frequently later in life – and some heart problems that dogs may have a predisposition to can even sometimes be warded off or delayed by taking proactive steps to keep your dog’s heart healthy and avoid problems.
Canine heart problems are reasonably common, affecting an estimated 15-20% of all dogs that reach old age, and so this is something that all dog owners should bear in mind and where possible, mitigate against.
You can’t prevent all types of potential heart problems a dog might develop, but by knowing what factors can worsen, trigger or even cause canine heart issues, you can get a head start on safeguarding your dog against them – which is what we will look at within this article.
Read on to learn about six things you can do to keep your dog’s heart healthy for life.
First of all, some congenital heart problems occur more frequently in certain dog breeds than in most others, like patent ductus arteriosus in the poodle and ventricular septal defects in the springer spaniel.
Finding out if there are any issue that are particularly common in the breed of dog you own can help you to learn more about the potential symptoms to look out for at home.
Additionally, some hereditary heart conditions can be tested for and diagnosed before they even become symptomatic with DNA testing protocols, so if you find that there is a history of heart issues in your dog’s breed line or a strong correlation between their breed and a certain heart health problem, you might want to look into this and consider finding out your own dog’s status with a DNA test.
This will enable you and your vet to get a head start on managing the condition and limiting the damage it may cause where possible, before it even manifests with symptoms.
Ensuring that your dog is being fed an appropriate diet is an important part of keeping them healthy in general and avoiding a range of different health issues from developing later on, with heart problems being just one of them.
Feed your dog the right diet for their age, size, activity levels and life stage, and ensure you aren’t giving too many treats. When it comes to treats, choose healthy, lean ones and not those heavy in fat or sugar, which are all bad for your dog’s heart health.
As well as feeding the right diet you also need to make sure you’re not overfeeding your dog, as this is of course counterproductive. If your dog is overweight, fat accumulates around the heart’s valves and arteries too, compromising its functions and meaning that it has to work harder to pump blood.
This can exacerbate or even cause heart problems that could otherwise have been entirely prevented.
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight means providing the right type of exercise as well as the appropriate diet, and just as there are different types of exercise that suit people for different purpose, so too are there for dogs.
Your dog’s exercise should be varied to include vigorous bursts of play and activity that have a cardio-style effect, gentler but longer walks to build endurance, and sufficient walks in general to meet all of your dog’s needs.
Heartworm is a type of parasite that sets up home in the chambers of your dog’ heart, and which can naturally cause a huge and serious range of problems if it does. Heartworm is not anywhere near as common in dogs in the UK as it is in many other areas like the USA, but it is still a good idea to talk to your vet about heartworm preventatives and checks just to be on the safe side.
On which note, all dogs should see the vet at least once a year for their annual booster shots and a health check, even if they appear to be in the peak of health and fighting fit.
This will give your vet the opportunity to listen to your dog’s heart and identify the early signs of any potential problems, before they become advanced and so, harder to treat or manage later on.