Not only humans but also dogs can suffer from a heart attack. Their risk factors of it, however, are not related to smoking and a poor lifestyle. The most common form in dogs is called valvular disease, affecting 5+ years old small breed dogs. This disease makes up for up to 75% of heart disease in dogs.
On the other hand, 13% of heart disease cases are associated with heartworm disease in dogs. Finally, myocardial disease, including dilated cardiomyopathy, is accounted for 8% of all heart disease cases affecting large dog breeds. Let’s get to know more about heart attack in dogs in the following section.
What Is Myocardial Infarction In Dogs?
Myocardial infarction or a heart attack happens when there is a blockage in the blood flow to a section of a heart’s muscular wall (myocardium), disabling the blood from reaching the heart muscles.
If it occurs, what follows is the premature death of that myocardium portion. It happens when there is a thrombus or a blood clot within the heart or the blood vessels.
A heart attack happens because the heart suffers from blood deprivation, not allowing it to receive nutrients and oxygen. When this happens, the heart muscle will die affecting the functions of the heart. In this case, the heart won’t be able to pump blood throughout the canine’s body.
While canine heart attacks are rare, they can occur. For this reason, it will help if you would know what its signs and symptoms are. Take note: Some symptoms can be subtle, but they play a role in the occurrence of a heart attack.
Some symptoms to watch out for myocardial infarction in dogs include,
- Painting or collapsing due to lack of oxygen in the dog’s brain
- Problems in breathing and increased heart rate and respiratory rate as the body’s response to the lack of oxygen supply
- Front leg pain
- Difficulty standing and weakness due to lack of nutrients supplied throughout his body
- Altered consciousness level due to lack of nutrient and oxygen supply in the brain
These are only some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for that tells your dog is likely to suffer from a heart attack. Your dog might be at a greater risk of it if he’s obese, contracts a bacterial infection or has diabetes.
NOTE: If you think your dog is having a myocardial infarction, you should take him to a vet’s clinic where he might be given a CPR for dogs.
After the symptoms, let’s talk about myocardial infarction causes that include the following.
- Vasculitis: This disease is characterized by the inflammation of blood vessels following an infection, endothelial lining injury or immune-mediated disease. Any of these can lead to narrowed vasculature.
- Tumor: There can be tumors growing around or on his heart vasculature. When this happens, they can clog the blood flowing to the heart muscle.
- Bacterial Infection: An infection can cause blockage to blood flow as well as inflammation.
- Nephrotic Syndrome: This disease characterized by kidney damage can lead to protein loss. When there is a loss of protein, blood clot, which is also one of the contributors of heart attacks in humans, may occur.
- Coronary Artery Disease: While it is uncommon in dogs, it still can occur due to high-serum cholesterol levels and hypothyroidism.
- Hypothyroidism: It occurs when the dog’s thyroid gland isn’t producing enough thyroxine, which works by converting food to fuel for his body.
- Atherosclerosis: While rare in dogs, it does occur. It has been reported in some breeds. This condition is characterized by the plaque buildup in the heart’s arteries, leading to restricted blood flow or ruptured arteries.
During the diagnosis with a vet, you’d be asked to provide your pet’s thorough history. It will include the nature and onset of the symptoms. Following, the vet will assess your dog’s condition by conducting physical examination focusing on your pet’s cardiovascular system.
A few laboratory tests, such as urinalysis, complete blood count and blood culture biochemistry profile. These exams can help the vet in identifying the root cause of the heart attack.
For example, a blood test can reveal an increase in the number of leukocytes, or white blood cells, which are pretty common during a contracted infection.
On the other hand, a biochemistry profile may reveal low levels of T3 and T4 hormones or high levels of liver enzymes.
Complete Blood Cell Count (CBC) is another useful tool in determining red and white blood cell count and detecting for any possible infection.
Echocardiography can also be used in detecting any cardiac abnormalities.
Urinalysis is also used in diagnosing a heart attack in dogs. It works by examining metabolic and kidney function.
All these tools and tests are useful in diagnosing if your dog has the disease or not. But again, you can save your furry friend by being observant and proactive enough to watch out for the symptoms and taking him to the vet immediately if you notice any of them.
What are the available treatment options of a heart attack in dogs? At the very least, the initial treatment is resuscitation as well as supportive care based on the severity of his case.
The main goal of supportive care and resuscitation are to restore his normal heart rate and activity.
And for ease of circulation, the vet may also give a blood-thinning medication. But depending on the cause of the heart attack, other medications may also be given.
To continue with the heart monitoring, the vet will also recommend hospitalization, which is needed until your dog becomes stable.
If your dog collapsed or fainted, he might have to stay in the hospital for continued monitoring as well.
Other treatment options
Different diets and medications may also be advised for supportive or preventive care for any renal disease present, but it is only if the damage isn’t severe.
- Thyroid replacement medications may also be given.
- Also, the vet may give antibiotics to prevent more damage to the heart lining and blood vessels due to inflammation and infection.
- To correct arrhythmias, anti-arrhythmic medications may also be given.
- There are also pacemaker implants, which can also be given to dogs predisposed to a heart problem.
- Surgery may be needed to remove any tumor mass blocking blood flow.
Again, treatment may involve any of these depending on the cause of the heart attack.
But even if your dog has stabilized, there is still a possibility of recurrence based on its cause and severity. For this reason, vets give medications or perform surgery to lengthen his lifespan but only if the issue has been diagnosed and treated early. During the dog’s life, medication should be given for maintenance.
One of the best ways to prevent heart attack in dogs is to ensure his wellness, which must come from a combination of regular exercise and quality diet.
To add to this, he must have a nurturing environment filled with affection. His overall well-being can tell about his life quality. For example, you can just imagine how a healthy pet is having a higher life quality than a stressed out and overweight dog.
You can also proactively protect his heart health by asking his veterinarian about a proBNP blood test if you’re worrying he might be having a heart issue. This test can offer you peace of mind when it shows that your dog has no signs of heart disease. This test can be repeated as often as needed to monitor your progress in terms of meeting your dog’s heart health requirements.
You must be sure that you’re meeting his CoQ10 needs. CoQ10 is abundant among younger dogs, but its level declines as they age. Ask your vet about its supplement form. CoQ10 is essential for a healthy heart.
You can also ask your vet about omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce negative inflammatory hormone production and improve appetite. Other supplements that can help keep his heart healthy including antioxidants and vitamin E.
Another way to prevent heart disease in dogs is to prevent obesity, which is one of the risk factors of developing a heart attack. To ensure he can prevent being overweight, feed him with a highly nutritious diet and give him daily exercise. Overall, you should maintain your pet’s ideal body weight to prevent not just obesity but also heart disease.
He should also have access to soft bedding, safe housing, weather protection, and fresh water. All these can contribute to him living a less stressful life.
Dogs can also suffer from a heart attack just as humans can. However, you help your beloved furry friend prevent it with early diagnosis and treatment. You can also help him prevent it with proper diet, regular exercise, and heart supplements. Nevertheless, you and your vet can work hand in hand to extend your dog’s life without heart disease.
Mark Bray has profound experience in the veterinary field with years of experience. He spends his time volunteering and writing informative articles for Pet Health Animal Hospital. In fact, Mark pays close attention to sharing vital information about pets to most pet parents across the United States. Certainly, Mark loves and cherishes animals, and owns two dogs Marty and Lou.