Activities For Dogs With An Enlarged Heart

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Introduction

For canines, an enlarged heart is most commonly caused by a condition known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy which weakens the heart muscle and reduces its ability to circulate blood through the body. While we have not yet discovered the cause of this disease, we do know that it is more prevalent in certain breeds, usually larger breeds such as Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and Boxers and that it is incurable. While it is necessary to restrict the animal’s activity so that their heart does not become overly stressed, there are still many calm and enjoyable activities that you can continue to share with your canine companion. 

Go for a Walk

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Sunny Day
Free
Normal
5 - 30 min
Items needed
Waste Bags
Leash
Activity description

While running next to your bike or going on long hikes are not activities that are recommended for dogs with enlarged or damaged hearts, there is no reason that most of these canines can’t take a nice leisurely meander and explore the world a little more. This will not only help to keep them in as good of physical shape as is possible, it will also typically provide a great deal of mental stimulation and increase their overall quality of life. When walking a dog with a disorder like dilated cardiomyopathy, you will want to be fully present and paying close attention so that you can recognize if your dog is starting to tire. 

Step
1
Pick a time
The time that you eventually decide to go on the walk will depend on a number of factors. If your dog is a breed that is sensitive to either cold or hot weather, you will want to avoid those circumstances if at all possible. If seeing other dogs while on lead triggers excitement in your canine, you may want to choose to walk your dog during a time of day in which there are fewer other canines out.
Step
2
Pick a place
While taking a brisk walk in or around your normal neighborhood is always an enjoyable experience for your canine, it may also benefit you and your dog to change up your location once in a while. This could take the form of a simple relaxing walk in a new park nearby or a few minutes on a walking trail near something novel, like a river or lake.
Step
3
Focus on your dog
This step is particularly important for dogs that have heart trouble like dilated cardiomyopathy. Stress to the heart is more likely to cause a possibly fatal heart attack in animals whose hearts are enlarged. If you see your dog start to slow down or try and sit down, it is time to take a break or cut the walk short for the day.
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Hide and Seek

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Any Day
Free
Easy
5 - 45 min
Items needed
Treats (optional)
Activity description

Hide and seek is an entertaining game that can be played by dogs of nearly any type. It is an activity that requires mental acuity and problem-solving abilities, and if it is done in a calm and controlled way, it is an activity that your dog can do with you that can be somewhat exciting, without being too exciting for your dog to handle. One of the best things about the game Hide and Seek is that it can be enjoyed by children of all ages giving any younger family members a chance to continue safely interacting with their pup.

Step
1
Choosing a reward
Dog treats tend to be much higher in fat, salt, and sugar than your dog’s regular food, and too many treats can lead to obesity and in some cases, may further damage the heart. Many dogs enjoy this activity enough that praise and winning the game are enough of a motivation for the dog to keep searching, but if your dog seems to need a treat to make the game interesting, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about appropriate treats, or natural treats that are lower in calories, like green beans, bits of carrot (cut into manageable pieces), or pieces of watermelon.
Step
2
Choose a hiding place
Initially, you may want to pick a place that is partially visible like a closet with the door part way open or under the bed with an arm sticking out. This will help your dog to get the basic idea of finding you, and you can make it more difficult later as their searching skills increase.
Step
3
Wait patiently, or call your dog
While many dogs will start searching on their own when they notice you are missing you may need to call your dog if this is not the case, at which point they should start looking for you. Once your dog has located you, give lots of praise, and if you wish, any treats that you decided on at the beginning. Remember to keep an eye on your dog’s stress and excitement level, and if they start panting or slowing down, it may be time to curtail the game, for the time being.
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Doga

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Any Day
Cheap
Normal
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Dog
Yoga mat
Activity description

Dogs that are diagnosed with an enlarged heart may be restricted from doing activities that may increase the heart rate, but in order to have the best possible quality of life that they can, they may want to engage in gentle exercises, particularly those that encourage bonding and stimulate the mind. Yoga is a fantastic way for humans to get both strength training and stress relief without overly stressing the heart, and the new trend of Doga, a variety of yoga that incorporates your dog into the yoga positions, is making this a more popular form of exercise for our canines as well.  

Step
1
Check with the professionals
It is important to ensure that you and your pet are healthy enough to start a new exercise routine. If your dog is experiencing any joint or skeletal issues, like hip dysplasia or arthritis, your dog’s veterinarian may recommend avoiding certain positions, and in rare cases, the heart may be too weak for even this calming activity. If you haven’t been exercising recently or if it has been longer than a year for your last check-up, this is a great time to see your doctor as well.
Step
2
Choose your path
Are you and pooch the social types who like to do things in groups or are you two more solitary types, who prefer learning on your own? While the former pair may enjoy a group class, led by a Yoga instructor, the latter may prefer to learn and practice the art of Doga at home, utilizing books and instructional videos.
Step
3
Doga time!
Remember when you are engaging in Doga that this should be a fun and relaxing activity. Some stretches may involve lifting your dog or moving them into positions that they are not yet familiar with; others may involve leaning over your dog or enclosing them in your arms. Not all dogs are comfortable with all of the stretches that are found in doga, never push your canine companion into a situation where they are not comfortable.
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More Fun Ideas...

Obedience Training

For many dogs, obedience training is not only mentally stimulating, but the act of learning something new can help bring you and your dog closer together.

Canine Massage

Canine massage is an activity that can be relaxing for both you and your canine companion. This activity can both relieve stress and help to improve your dog’s circulation. 

Conclusion

All dogs need physical activity of some sort and daily mental stimulation in order to meet all of their physical, mental, and emotional needs. While there is a need to restrict the activity and excitement level for a dog who has been diagnosed with an enlarged heart, this does not mean that these dogs can’t engage in low-key activities that stimulate their minds and may even improve the overall health of your canine.