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Vet Talks: Advice for Heart Conditions in Dogs

Pet Care Tips 3 min read
Vet advise for heart conditions in dogs

Hello Everyone! In today’s blog I wanted touch on heart conditions in dogs, specifically what symptoms to look for, understanding what diagnostic tests your vet might recommend for heart conditions in dogs; and treatment options including what integrative therapy options I would recommend for heart disease in pets.

What are symptoms of a heart condition in your dog?

It’s important to be a watchful guardian of your pet, so that you can be alerted to any potential problems in your pet before they get severe. Symptoms, which as a veterinarian, I consider to be red flags are:

Coughing– more than usual, or after exercise or a few hours before bedtime especially if you have been told your dog has a heart murmur

Exercise intolerance– when your dog no longer wants to go on longer walks, and tires easily

Pacing before bedtime or having a hard time settling down

As the heart condition develops you may see:

A swollen belly from fluid buildup in the lungs and other organs

Fainting because of blocked blood flow to the brain

Change in color of tongue or gum color to bluish grey due to poor oxygen flow

Weight loss

If any of the above signs are seen in your dog it is very important to have your dog seen by a  veterinarian.  Your veterinarian may perform X rays of the chest, blood work (including heartworm testing) and urine testing.  To further assess heart disease, an EKG (which is a test that monitors electrical signals from your dog’s heart and shows how fast it is beating as well as the type of rhythm of the heart) may be performed. Further tests to determine the severity of the heart condition in your dog include an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram), which will help to assess the size and blood flow within the heart.  

What breeds are most at risk for heart conditions in dogs?

Congenital abnormalities of the heart and cardiovascular system are defects that are present at birth. Due to dog breeding, there are some breeds, which are genetically predisposed to heart disease. These breeds include:

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Doberman Pinschers







American cocker spaniels


Irish wolfhounds

Portuguese water dogs


Great Danes

What are treatment options for heart conditions in dogs?

Once the diagnosis has been made for heart disease, medications may be prescribed to control symptoms of heart disease.  In addition to western medications, diet and complimentary therapies are very helpful in maintaining control of symptoms.  

I would say that optimal weight maintenance is probably one of the most important goals that pet parents should work toward in managing cardiac disease in their pets. Obesity and severe weight loss can adversely affect the heart.  Keeping your dog from becoming obese is beneficial in managing heart disease. Obesity has been shown to affect the heart by affecting the blood pressure and heart rate adversely causing cardiac failure.

Please note that diet changes should not be started if your dog has unmanaged heart disease.  When the disease is managed, transitioning to a healthy diet that has normal protein levels for age, low in salt, high in omega 3 fatty acids, with increased potassium, carnitine, coenzyme q10, and high in antioxidants are all helpful.

Integrative therapy is key to managing heart failure.  Western medications, diet, omega 3 fatty acids like NHV PetOmega-3, antioxidants, Co Q10, NHV Hearty Heart, and NHV Turmeric are what I typically prescribe for my heart failure cases.

If your dog is suffering from heart conditions, and you would like an integrative approach to healing, please do contact me for an online consult, and I would be happy to draw up a plan for you.
Yours in wellness,
Dr. H. Cook (DVM, CVA)

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for fifteen years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. She is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

Published: December 4, 2015

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