canine heart disease

Canine Cardiomyopathy

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Do you own a Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, Cocker Spaniel, Newfoundland or St. Bernard?  If you do, your pet is at risk for developing a heart muscle disease called cardiomyopathy.  Cardiomyopathy can affect dogs of any age, but it is most common in middle-aged or older dogs.  Dogs can be affected by cardiomyopathy and show no outward signs or symptoms until the disease has become severe.  Signs the dogs with cardiomyopathy may show include a heart murmur, abnormal heart rhythm, cough, rapid or labored breathing, fainting or a distended abdomen.  A veterinary cardiologist can help by screening at risk dogs with an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and/or 24 hour ECG monitoring (called a Holter monitor).  Early diagnosis of cardiomyopathy allows early treatment that can slow the progression of the disease and increase the quantity and quality of your dog’s life. 

If you have a dog that is at risk for cardiomyopathy, talk to your primary care veterinarian about routine screening for cardiac disease and how a veterinary cardiologist could be involved in your pet’s care.

Did you know that heart disease isn't just a human problem?

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Unfortunately, dogs get heart disease too, and about 10% of all dogs have some type of heart disease.  The most common type of heart disease in dogs is called chronic mitral valve degeneration, which causes a major heart valve not to close properly.  This condition is common in small and medium sized middle aged to older dogs.  Breeds known to be at a higher risk for valve disease include Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Poodles, but any dog can be affected. 


The most common sign of valve disease is a heart murmur heard with a stethoscope.  Symptoms of valve disease you might notice at home include cough, rapid or labored breathing, fainting, or decreased exercise tolerance.  If you notice these signs you should have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible. Annual examinations with your veterinarian can help detect a heart problem before your pet is having symptoms at home, so make sure to have your pet evaluated regularly.


There is no cure for heart valve disease, but there are medications that can lengthen your pet’s life and improve their quality of life.  Veterinary cardiologists specialize in treating heart disease in pets and can work with your primary veterinarian if a heart problem is suspected.  If you have a middle aged small or medium sized dog, talk to your veterinarian about heart disease at your next visit.