The 5 Most Common Heart Diseases in Dogs & Their Treatment

The 5 Most Common Heart Diseases in Dogs & Their Treatment

Author WDF Staff


Heart disease in dogs is caused by a variety of factors. Aging, obesity, breed, and nutrition can all have an impact. The most common problem is heart valve disease, which typically affects small breed dogs aged five years or older.

No matter what type of heart condition your dog has, it's critical to recognize the warning signs as soon as possible. Because 95 percent of heart conditions in dogs develop as they age, it is easier to manage them as soon as they appear. Here’s what you should know about the 5 most common heart diseases in dogs.

Most common heart diseases in dogs

Heart disease is a relatively common issue in dogs, particularly in certain breeds such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (prone to mitral valve disease) and the Doberman Pinscher (prone to dilated cardiomyopathy). The following are some of the most common types of heart disease in dogs:

1. Mitral valve disease (MVD)

Mitral valve disease is a problem with one of the heart's valves. It is especially common in small breeds like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dachshund, and some Terriers.

german-shepherd puppy outside

2. Arrhythmias

An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat rhythm that can result in fainting spells.

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3. Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle weakness that causes the heart to become large, floppy, and incapable of pumping blood properly. DCM is most common in large/giant breed dogs like Dobermans and Great Danes.

4. Congenital heart defect

A congenital defect is something that a puppy is born with. Congenital heart disease is usually fatal, but luckily, it is also uncommon. Congenital heart disease comes in a variety of forms, including:

  • Arteriosclerotic ductus arteriosus (PDA)
  • Pulmonary stenosis
  • Aortic stenosis
  • Defects in the atrial septum (ASD)
  • Defects in the ventricular septum (VSD)
  • Fallot's Tetralogy

nova-scotia-duck-tolling-retriever on bed

5. Cirrhosis of the pericardium

Because the pericardium is a thin membrane that surrounds the heart, pericardial disease refers to any problem with this membrane.

The most common symptoms of heart disease

Heart disease symptoms are not all the same. There are different diseases dogs can get, so you shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that symptoms vary. However, based on the cases vets have observed so far, here are the most common symptoms of heart diseases.

Coughing that doesn't stop

If your dog has a cough that doesn't go away after a few days, heart disease could be the cause. Coughing in dogs with heart disease can occur for a variety of reasons. When the heart isn't pumping efficiently, fluid can build up in the lungs of some dogs. This blood backup in the lungs can cause fluid to leak out of blood vessels and accumulate in lung tissue, resulting in coughing. Other dogs may have heart conditions that cause heart enlargement. The enlarged heart can press on the airways, causing coughing. A veterinarian should be consulted if you have a persistent cough that lasts more than a few days.

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Fainting or collapsing

When the heart is not functioning correctly, vital organs such as the brain can be deprived of nutrients, particularly oxygen. In dogs with heart disease, blood flow to the brain can be compromised, resulting in fainting (syncope) or collapse. Exercise usually causes syncope and collapse in dogs with heart disease, though coughing can also cause episodes.

sad dog on the floor

Breathing difficulties

Dogs with heart disease frequently have breathing problems (dyspnea). A dog's breathing rate or force may increase. Some dogs will sit or stand with their legs spread wide and their neck stretched out. Dogs suffering from severe heart disease have more difficulty breathing when lying down. They will frequently sit or stand for extended periods.

Fatigue and inability to exercise

Heart disease causes dogs to tire out more quickly on walks and during exercise. They may require more sleep or rest than usual.

Changes in Behavior

Pet owners may notice behavioral changes in dogs with heart disease, such as a lack of appetite, isolation, and a reluctance to play or engage in previously pleasurable activities.

Heart disease symptoms can be confused with other diseases such as arthritis, seizures, and chronic lung disease. A thorough history and diagnostic tests can help your veterinarian narrow down the diagnostic possibilities.

How are canine heart diseases diagnosed?

Once the owner notices something’s wrong with their dogs, they will call their vets and schedule a checkup. Based on the dog’s symptoms, the vet will decide on one of these tests that will help them confirm heart diseases.

sad vizsla

Chest X-ray

X-rays are still an excellent way to determine heart size and one of the best ways to assess fluid buildup in and around the lungs.

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Electrocardiogram (ECG)

The best way to detect arrhythmia or abnormal heartbeat is with an ECG. A veterinarian may ask a dog to wear a Holter monitor, a portable device that continuously monitors the electrical activity of the heart, for several days at home to look for irregular heartbeats.

An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound of the heart. This noninvasive test has completely transformed the diagnosis of heart disease in both humans and dogs. A skilled veterinarian's echocardiogram can provide valuable information about disease and measurements to assess therapy.

Blood Tests

Although they are not as common in dogs as in humans, new tests for dogs that measure cardiac biomarkers in the blood are available. The protein NT-proBNP, elevated in dogs with advanced heart disease, is the most commonly measured biomarker.

Although heart disease in dogs can be fatal, there are many treatment options available to help control symptoms and live a better life. Diet therapy, activity modification, and therapeutics are all methods used to treat heart disease in dogs. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best therapies for your pet.

How are canine heart diseases treated?

Your dog's treatment is entirely dependent on the type of heart problem they have. Once the vet makes an accurate diagnosis, they will decide what type of treatment is optimal for your dog. Treatments are usually;


In the early stages of some heart conditions, no treatment is required. If this is the case, your vet will most likely ask you to monitor your dog and return for regular check-ups.

cute puppy

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The majority of common types of heart disease are treatable with medications, careful monitoring, and lifestyle changes. Heart medications will not cure your dog's problem, but they will slow its progression and alleviate symptoms. It's critical to understand that, even with drugs, most types of heart disease worsen over time.


Certain types of heart disease (mostly rare, congenital problems) can be treated with surgery. Surgery can be very effective, but it is only helpful for certain types of heart disease. It's critical to understand that heart surgery carries significant risks, can be costly and is usually only performed in a specialized veterinary center.

What is the prognosis for dogs with heart problems?

The prognosis will entirely depend on the type of heart disease your dog has. For example, DCM can be pretty dangerous, but the prognosis will depend on the stage of the disease. Some heart diseases only need to be monitored, and the dog lives the rest of its life happy and relatively healthy. It’s best to discuss the prognosis with your vet.

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Is it possible to prevent heart diseases in dogs?

There isn't much you can do to keep your dog from getting heart disease once it's born, but there are a few different heart-screening programs in place to keep heart disease from being passed down from parent to puppy. If you are thinking about getting a dog, do your research and find out what screening is required for your preferred breed.

World Dog Finder team

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