Unlike heart diseases in humans, those in dogs, especially valvular disease, are not related to lifestyle, but are developed with age over time. If caught early, pets suffering from heart diseases can be treated and live on for many years after diagnosis.
We’ve talked to Dr Maxie Krüger from Veterinary Specialist Hospital, one of the four board-certified cardiologist in the Asia, and found out there are different severity of heart diseases that some exhibit no symptoms and no medication is necessary while some types are deadly with a tendency to progress fast. Watch our interview (or read below) and learn to keep your pets healthy.
Should I worry about my dog’s cough?
If your dog is coughing once a day, one off, and it doesn’t happen again, I would perhaps dismiss it. Maybe it’s just a flu. But if the cough is persistent for a couple of days, more than once a day, and unrelated to, for example, excitement or activities, I would definitely take the dog to a vet.
Coughing can indicate many illnesses, one of which is heart disease. How to distinguish?
It depends on the age of the dog, and certain dog breeds are more prone to certain heart diseases, for example, valvular disease. With the progression of heart disease, the development of the congestive heart disease is the worst case, coughing is definitely a clinical sign.
The problem is how to distinguish between respiratory problems, a collapsing trachea and heart disease. To rule out these things, we just have to run a few tests unfortunately. There are no other ways to distinguish without them.
The first preliminary test is usually chest X-rays to help evaluate lungs’ tissue and look at the heart’s size. If your dog also has heart murmur, that is more suggestive to be valvular disease, then the next step of testing is to get a echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart). Because it tells me where the murmur comes from, and whether the size of the heart and valves abnormal. These are the ways to distinguish between just respiratory problems and heart disease.
What are the most common heart diseases you’ve seen pets in Hong Kong are suffering from?
In Hong Kong, the most common is chronic degenerative valve (CVD) disease, because of the dog population. We have mostly small breed dogs, and basically this is the disease they are most prone to.
In larger breed dogs, we can also find a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) common. Basically, the heart becomes enlarged that it doesn’t pump properly anymore.
Especially with valvular disease, the correlation between loudness of the murmur and the severity of the heart disease is not always there. If you have a heart murmur, it’s always better to follow up with radiograph and echocardiogram to establish the heart disease. Because especially valvular disease has various stages: clinical stage, and sub-clinical stage which suffering animals have no symptoms. Within the no-symptoms stage, there are also different stages. One of the stages require medication already, while the other stage does not require. But in order to find out which stage your pet is in, your pet needs to do an ultrasound (echocardiogram).
What are most obvious symptoms we, pet parents, should look out for?
Persistent cough, which is a severe sign;
Struggle to breathe (it means the dog has to work really hard to get air into his/her lungs);
weakness or lethargy;
fainting (it’s an extreme clinical sign which definitely warrants an immediate medical attention).
Hellodog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See more details here.