Can Dogs Have Heart Attacks? Dog Heart Health 101

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We all know that heart attacks are a major source of worry for a lot of people. However, people don't tend to think a lot about the risk of a heart attack in a dog. You may wonder, then, can dogs have heart attacks?

C​AN DOGS HAVE HEART ATTACKS?

Before learning about heart attacks in dogs, the first thing you want to know is the answer to one question. That question would be, can dogs have heart attacks?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Dogs can have heart attacks just like humans can, and it can happen to dogs of any breed. However, in dogs, they're fairly rare.

Dogs have heart attacks due to a mechanism that's very similar to the one that causes the same ailment in humans. It happens when blood flow to part of the dog's heart is blocked.

If you suspect that your dog is having a heart attack, you'll need to get him medical attention immediately.

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WHAT IS A HEART ATTACK?

If you think your dog might be at risk of a heart attack, you'll want to know more about heart attacks themselves. That is important. Stopping at the answer to the question, "can dogs have heart attacks?" still doesn't give you all the information you need.

Heart attacks occur when the blood flow to a part of the myocardium, which is the muscular wall of the heart, is blocked. That leads to the premature death of this part of the myocardium.

It happens because the coronary arteries that provide blood to the heart become harder and thicker over time. That is because of a buildup of plaque, which is a mixture of cholesterol, fat, and other substances.

Sometimes, the plaque can break open, and a blood clot can form. The clot can then block the blood flow. That can lead to blood being unable to reach the heart through that particular artery.

And that is what a heart attack is -- when blood is blocked from reaching the heart, and the part of the myocardium that's supplied by the blocked part starts to die. The longer the artery stays blocked, the more damage is going to occur.

When the heart, or even part of the heart, is deprived of blood, it doesn't get the necessary nutrients or oxygen. As a result, the part of the heart that's not receiving blood will start to die. That affects the heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body.

It can happen in a human or a dog. Dogs are mammals, just like humans, and they have a lot of the same body parts and internal systems. These include the heart and other components of the circulatory system that are involved in heart attacks.

This is why there's, unfortunately, an affirmative answer to the question, can dogs have heart attacks?

HOW TO HANDLE A HEART ATTACK IN A DOG

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Any dog owner would be unhappy to know the answer to the question, can dogs have heart attacks? Because the answer is yes, it just gives dog owners one more thing to worry about. However, since it is a reality, it's important that you know what to do in the event that your dog has a heart attack.

RISK FACTORS


Most dog owners aren't going to like the answer to the question, can dogs have heart attacks? However, some dog owners might find relief in the knowledge that it's less likely to happen in some dogs than in others.

There are three main reasons that a dog could have a heart attack. The first is a genetic predisposition. Some dogs just have heart problems that run in the family, much like some people do.

The second reason is congenital abnormalities of the heart. The breeds that are most likely to experience these include Great Danes, Boxers, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, as well as others. Other dogs can experience heart attacks too, but these ones are more likely to have congenital defects that'll predispose them to this problem.

The third primary factor that could cause a heart attack in a dog is heart disease. It's important that, along with recognizing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, you recognize those of heart disease as well. That way, if you spot them in your dog, you can be proactive and take steps to minimize your dog's chance of having a heart attack.

The signs of heart disease include:

  • Coughing, difficulty breathing, or heavy breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Weakness or fainting
  • Swelling
  • Restlessness
  • Blue gums
  • Self-isolation
  • Vomiting
  • Stool issues, such as diarrhea or constipation

Some of these symptoms, such as intolerance to exercise, loss of appetite, or other behavioral changes, can be monitored by certain smart dog activity trackers.

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KNOW THE SIGNS


Now that you know that the answer to the question "Can dogs have heart attacks?" is yes, you need to know the signs. That is so you'll recognize it when it's happening, and you'll be able to get the dog the help he needs right away.

Just like with a human being, when a dog is having a heart attack, time is of the essence. You need to take action immediately in order to minimize damage to your dog's heart and save his life.

There are certain symptoms that'll signal a heart attack in your dog. These are as follows:

  • Collapsing
  • Fever
  • Panting, increased heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety, confusion
  • Seizures
  • Immobility, difficulty standing, pain in the front legs
  • Lethargy

The first symptom that people usually recognize is collapsing. However, you should be aware of the other symptoms as well. Any of these symptoms could result in sudden death; however, in most cases, as long as you spot them early on, you can act on them in time and save your dog.

WHAT TO DO RIGHT AWAY


If you see any of the signs of a heart attack in your dog, you need to seek medical attention right away. It's possible for heart attacks to be either mild or serious, but you'll need to get your dog to the vet to see which one it is.

If your dog has a mild heart attack, your vet will listen to his heart and draw blood. Then, the vet will look for biomarkers that indicate heart disease in your dog. The veterinarian can also find out the underlying cause of your dog's heart attack.

Of course, the veterinarian will stabilize your dog. They will remove any accumulated fluid from your dog's lungs. They'll also prescribe medication, in order to prevent this from happening again.

If your dog has a serious heart attack, the situation is more dire. In these cases, the dog will often collapse, and sudden death is sometimes a possibility. As long as you get your dog to the vet on time, they can perform CPR on him.

It's absolutely crucial that you recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in your dog. If you know the signs, you have a much better chance of getting your dog treated when it happens.

DIAGNOSIS


In order to know for sure that your dog has had a heart attack or has heart disease, you'll need an official diagnosis from your veterinarian.

Your vet will need a thorough medical history for your dog, which he or she might have already from previous visits. You'll have to tell your vet all the details about the onset and nature of the heart attack symptoms.

Then, your vet will conduct a complete physical examination of your dog that is particularly focused on his cardiovascular system.

They'll do different laboratory tests, such as a complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood culture biochemistry profile. The goal will be to help figure out what caused the heart attack.

There are actually a few potential causes of heart attacks in dogs. People might assume that it would be atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. However, it could also be nephrotic syndrome, vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels), a bacterial infection, hypothyroidism, or tumors.

It's important that your vet not only know that your dog had a heart attack but exactly how it happened as well. That is why the tests are so important.

For example, blood testing may show an increased number of white blood cells that is characteristic of an infection. Alternatively, the biochemistry profile could show abnormalities in enzymes or hormones, which often indicates hypothyroidism.

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TREATMENT


Because there are so many possible causes for canine heart attacks, there are multiple different treatments for dogs who have heart attacks. The specific treatment that your vet will recommend will depend on the underlying cause of your dog's heart attack, as well as the complications that have arisen.

Most of the time, initial treatment involves the use of medication in order to dissolve the thrombus and restore regular blood flow to the heart muscles.

In cases of severe heart attacks, the vet will usually keep the dog in the hospital until he is stabilized. That is particularly true when the dog has irregular heart rhythms.

MANAGEMENT


The prognosis of a heart attack will depend quite a bit on how long the problem has lasted and how severe it is. Your vet will run extensive laboratory tests and regularly monitor your dog's heart during treatment. In addition, the vet will likely recommend that you restrict your dog's activity during and after treatment.

Since obesity is a major risk factor for heart attacks in dogs, your vet may also advise a change in your dog's diet. There are many low-calorie dog foods out there. That is also a good tactic for people whose dogs have not yet had heart problems but who want to prevent this problem from becoming an issue.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR DOG'S HEART!

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Can dogs have heart attacks? You now know that the answer is yes. However, it's not something that happens very often.

That doesn't mean, though, that you should rest on your laurels and assume your dog isn't going to have a heart attack. You still need to do everything you can to ensure that his diet is healthy and that he gets plenty of exercise.

When in doubt, you should consult with a vet in order to see what you can do to minimize the chance of this event.

It's very rare that someone would simply want to know the answer to the question, can dogs have heart attacks? Usually, they want to know the answer because they want to know what they can do to stop this from happening. You love your dog, so educate yourself in order to keep him around as long as possible!

What do you have to say about our answer to the question, can dogs have heart attacks? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

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