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.