Up to 10% of dogs in town suffer from heart disease, vets say

Common Ailments in Labrador, Dobermann, Spitz, Pomeranian, Great Dane, Dachshund, and Boxer Breeds

Thamma, a one-and-a-half-year-old Caravan Hound, was resting next to his parent, Lakshmi, on a couch after lunch. Suddenly he let out a scream and fell off the couch. The dog, who remained unresponsive, was rushed to Madras Veterinary College (MVC) Hospital in Vepery, where the clinician said he died of cardiac arrest.

“The death could be due to an arrhythmia caused by an abnormal heart rhythm. In the case of Thamma, it could have been congenital,” explained S. Balasubramanian, Director of Clinics, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (Tanuvas).

The most common heart disease in dogs is degenerative mitral valve disease, followed by dilated cardiomyopathy, pericardial disease, congenital heart disease, and cardiac neoplasm.

“Increases with age”

“Five to 10 percent of dogs have heart disease, and that increases with age. Don’t breed a dog that has heart disease because there’s a chance the disease will be passed on to the next generation,” K said. Jeyaraja, Professor of Veterinary Clinical Medicine, MVC.

He said if a dog faints frequently at a young age, the pet owner should see a veterinarian to rule out life-threatening arrhythmias or congenital heart disease.

Valve disorder

Clinicians at Madras Veterinary College Hospital have found that degenerative mitral valve disease is common in breeds like the Pomeranian, Spitz and Dachshund, and usually occurs in old age.

Dr Jeyaraja said common symptoms of heart disease were persistent cough, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing and abdominal distention.

“If the cough does not subside within a few days, pet owners should see a veterinarian. A dog with advanced heart disease would have difficulty breathing at rest and would prefer to sit or stand. He may show reluctance to walk or exercise regularly,” he said.

Clinicians advise cardiac screening for dogs over six years old. “Besides thorough physical examination, EKG, X-ray and echocardiography would help us narrow down the underlying cause and disease,” said S. Kavitha, Head of Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine, MVC, Chennai.

Dr. Balasubramanian said medical management would improve dogs’ quality of life.