The diagnosis of heart disease in your dog is hard to hear no matter what the age. Although it’s more expected when the dogs are older, hearing the diagnosis is still very difficult.
But, it’s not an immediate death sentence and there are alternatives for treating dogs with heart disease. Prognosis really depends on how quickly you get your dog to the vet and an official diagnosis is made.
While genetics certainly play a role, there are several other factors that are major contributors to the disease including lack of exercise, diet and obesity. We’ve actually been pretty lucky with our own dogs when it comes to heart disease, even our seniors.
However, certain breeds like our Doberman Pinscher are at the highest risk for developing Dilated Cardiomyopathy aka enlarged heart.
The Two Types of Heart Disease In Dogs
- Congenital – meaning the dog was born with it and most likely it is genetic.
- Acquired – affecting middle age to senior dogs and the disease developed over time.
The Most Common Forms Of Dog Heart Disease
- Arrhythmias – The dog’s electrical system in the body isn’t telling the heart how to beat.
- Pericardial Disease – There is a sac that surrounds the heart and it fills with fluid preventing the heart from beating normally.
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (Our Jenna was diagnosed with this) – This disease affects the muscle of the heart impairing the ability to pump normally. As it progresses, the chambers of the heart become enlarged and valves leak.
- Mitral Valve Disease – The heart valves start to leak causing poor circulation and blood pressure.
- Chronic Valvular Heart Disease – The heart valves thicken and become impaired.
Please see our recommended natural products here for dogs with chronic heart problems.
Symptoms Of Dog Congestive Heart Failure Depend on Progression
Unfortunately, symptoms appear when the heart actually starts to fail. These are some common signs that a dog may be in mild heart failure: Learn the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs.
- Weight loss
- No appetite
- Coughing (noticeable at night)
- Difficulty breathing
The following symptoms often occur when a dog is in severe heart failure:
- Loss of energy
- Edema (build up of fluid in the body tissues/cavity)
- Swollen abdomen (ascites) and limbs
- Poor circulation – tongue and gum’s are blue in color (monitor your dog’s circulation by checking capillary refill time in your dog’s gum’s – see instructions below)
- Difficulty breathing at all times – even when resting
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Exercise intolerance (can be a first sign of heart failure – fluid builds in the lungs)
- Dog has an increased heart rate and a weak pulse
You Can Monitor Your Dog’s Capillary Refill Time (CRT)
What you are looking for here is how quickly the color returns to your dog’s gum’s when pressure is applied then released. This little test tells how the blood, lungs and heart are doing. How well blood and oxygen are reaching the cells. There are many little capillaries in dogs gum’s and applying pressure to the vessels forces blood out of the capillaries. Once pressure is released, blood should immediately refill the capillaries in roughly 1-2 seconds which is considered the normal refill time.
To give you a better understanding, try this on yourself: firmly press the tip of your own fingernail and watch it turn white; now release and the blood immediately flows back returning the nail to normal color.
**Note – Be sure to take notice of the actual color of your dog’s gums before you start. Most healthy gum’s are pink.
**Note – Don’t check the gum’s when he first wakes up because they will be paler in color (wait approx. 10 minutes) or right after exercise because they will be pinker.
- Press your finger against the dog’s gum line over the canine tooth applying pressure until the gum’s turn white underneath your finger and then release.
- Once you release your finger – that same area should appear white or paler than the surrounding gum’s.
- If the gum’s are yellow (liver problem), blue, pale or white – seek veterinary assistance immediately.
- It’s also recommended that if the refill time is less than one second or more than 3 seconds, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Congestive Heart Failure
At the beginning stages of heart disease in your dog, you might not notice many symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms will progress and he will then move into congestive heart failure (CHF).
Whether you have a healthy dog or a sick dog, I believe in treating the WHOLE dog. This means that you don’t just treat the symptoms like often happens with traditional veterinary care, rather you treat from the inside out as in holistic medicine. Consider using both traditional and holistic treatments for managing his dog heart disease.
- Activity restriction must be enforced
- Low sodium diet – A MUST when treating chronic heart failure
- Ace inhibitors
- Bronchodilators, oxygen and cough suppressants
- Surgery is often an option, but rare due to cost
Natural Treatment For Dogs with Heart Disease Include the following supplements. However, you should already be giving your dog a multivitamin anyway, regardless if he has heart disease or not. The following supplements with links would be in addition to a multivitamin since a good multivitamin contains most other amino acids, minerals, etc. We recommend two different multivitamins. Nuvet is a tablet like a treat and the other is our tasteless powder.
- Coenzyme Q10 – Antioxidant: As directed.
- Taurine – Amino Acid
- L-Carnitine – Amino Acid
- Fish Oil Fatty Acids: As directed.
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Hawthorn Berry: Dosage: Cats and small dogs—1/8 human adult dose, Medium dogs—1/4 adult dose, Large dogs—1/2 adult dose, and Giant dogs—whole adult dose. *NOTE: Check with your dog’s vet if your already providing prescription heart medicine.
If you have a water softener in your home, it’s important to give your dog bottled or filtered water if he or she has heart disease (anytime really), since water softeners contain large amounts of sodium. I also recommend that you learn CPR for your dog and you can do that here.