Can Dogs Live with Enlarged Hearts?

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Introduction

When it comes to your dog's heart, you do everything you can to make sure it's healthy, but some things, like enlarged hearts, are impossible to prevent. An enlarged heart is a condition where your pup's heart muscle becomes thinner than normal. Because of this, they'll likely have valve leakage, heart arrhythmia, and their heart simply won't pump as much, or as well, as it needs to. 

Your pup's heart will become enlarged, weak, and won't be able to contract as it needs to. While you can take steps to always monitor your pup's health, sometimes enlarged hearts happen, but does that mean your pup won't make it? Can dogs live with enlarged hearts? 

There's good news and bad news for this condition. On the negative side, there's no cure for an enlarged heart - but luckily, with the right treatment, careful diet and exercise, and the right regimen of medicine, your pup can still live a long and happy life. 

Read on to learn about the signs your dog might be showing you to signify his condition, ways to combat his enlarged heart, and a touch of science and history about enlarged hearts in canines to give you a better idea of what you'll be dealing with. 

Introduction of Can Dogs Live with Enlarged Hearts?

Signs Your Dog May Have an Enlarged Heart

An enlarged canine heart condition is referred to by dog-tors as dilated cardiomyopathy, which is also called DCM. With this condition, the heart muscle becomes weaker, thinner, and can't function like a normal heart, allowing the muscle to swell and struggle to contract and pump blood like it normally would. 

This condition is fairly common in older dogs, and especially in large dog breeds. Deerhounds, Great Danes, Dobermans, Saint Bernards, and Shepherds are a few of the breeds who are best known for this disease. With this condition, a pup's heart becomes enlarged and weak, and the chambers of his heart are put under great stress and strain, making it difficult for your pup to function.

This will typically manifest in several signs you should look out for. While your dog can't verbally tell you what's wrong, odds are, he's trying to tell you in some other way. If your dog is having a hard time exercising and is fatigued far easier than normal, this could reflect his heart's difficulty to keep up. If he's reluctant to partake in activity, has to cough a lot, can't stop panting, breathes heavy all the time, is losing a lot of weight, and appears much weaker than usual, these are all signs he may be suffering from an enlarged heart. 

Body Language

Your dog may be giving you various body language cues to let you know something is wrong, so it's important you keep an eye out for these symptoms - it may save your pup's life:
  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Weakness

Other Signs

Some other signs your dog may be giving you, especially in conjunction with the above body language, can reflect heart issues your dog may be having:
  • Heavy Breathing
  • An Enlarged Abdomen
  • Exercise Intolerance
  • Clearing Throat or Coughing
  • Excessive Panting
  • Collapse and Fainting
  • Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss
  • Reluctance to Lie Down or Get Up

The Causes of Canine Enlarged Hearts

History of Can Dogs Live with Enlarged Hearts?
Historically, enlarged hearts in pups typically go hand-in-hand with conditions like congenital heart diseases, congestive heart failure, and heart disease. Knowing the possible causes of these diseases and this condition can help you keep an eye on your pup's heart health. 

Some of the causes of an enlarged heart include things that come with time, like old age and injury. Many middle-aged dogs, especially if they're a larger breed, develop this over time. 

Diet and exercise can play a role in a dog's heart health, too. Sometimes though, injury or infection can exacerbate an issue and cause heart problems. Often though, your dog might have just been born with a heart defect that you were unable to detect. Additionally, deficiencies in amino acids, toxicity, infection, and low thyroid can contribute as well. 

The Science Behind Enlarged Hearts

Science of Can Dogs Live with Enlarged Hearts?

Often, understanding how and why a disease or condition occurs can help lend itself to the treatment of the condition. That being said, it's important to understand the science behind a canine's enlarged heart. This condition is called Dilated Cardiomyopathy and occurs for a variety of reasons we mentioned above (genetic, diet, exercise, deficiencies, toxicity, etc). 

When a dog has DCM, the heart muscle expands and becomes enlarged, and at its worst, weak and unable to function. The loss of the ability to contract is the main component of the condition, affecting both sides of the heart. Because of this, the chambers of the heart, the atria and the ventricles, are put under great strain due to the enlargement and impairment of the over-sized heart muscle. 

How to Train and Treat Your Dog to Deal With His Enlarged Heart

Training of Can Dogs Live with Enlarged Hearts?
Once your dog's condition is diagnosed, it's probable that a lot has to change. Your pup will be placed on a regimen of medicine to slow down the symptoms of his heart, likely will need a new diet, and will probably be frequenting the dog-tor's office far more than he normally would. 

It's important to train your dog to adjust to these changes. Try rewarding your pup for acclimating to his new medicine and diet with tons of extra attention - perhaps you can find some diet-appropriate treats to reward him with as well. 

Try to make the vet's office as non-threatening as possible. The reward system will work here too, that way, your dog will associate the vet's office with a positive experience. 

Additionally, it's important to train your dog to take the pills he'll be on. Train him to play a thrown and catch game with his medicine, sneak them into his food, or even teach him how to take the pills gently out of your hand. Another way to give your dog medicine is to use liquid forms through a syringe. Find the solution that works best for your pup and make sure you reward him heavily after!

How to React if You Suspect Your Dog Has and Enlarged Heart

  • Contact your vet immediately.
  • Teach your pup to accept his new lifestyle changes in exercise, diet, and medicine.
  • Establish a medicine regimen for your pup.
  • Work with your vet on a diet and exercise program.
  • Value the time you have with your dog.

Tell Us About Your Dog's Enlarged Heart

Poppy
11 Months
Boxer
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs
heart murmur
rapid breathing
vomiting water
bloated stomach

I have been told that with medication and Poppy's enlarged heart (we have found out she was born with it) she now has 1-2 months to live. I hope that she can live longer than that because we are heartbroken

1 month, 3 weeks ago
I am so sorry to hear about Poppy's condition. We have a 13-year-old Toy Poodle with an enlarged heart and fluid in the lungs, which cause a lot of coughing and gaging among other symptoms. She was prescribed a Diuretic (Water Pill), and is doing better.

I will pray for Poppy as prayer has been a source of healing in so many parts of my life. God Bless Poppy and you.
Turbo
11 Years
Labrador Retriever
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs
excessive panting,
coughing

I took her in thinking she had larynx paralysis because of the coughing and labored breathing. The Vet advised getting an X-ray taken. The X-ray showed her heart was enlarged. I'm giving her an anti-anxiety med, an durectic and something else that I'm not sure what it's for. I guess it's just a matter of time now. I adopted her 9 years ago and I'm so glad I did.

1 month, 2 weeks ago
Pippin
9 Years
Chihuahua
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs

I am very sad to have found out that my buddy has a enlarged heart and a heart murmur, Plus he has bladder stones as well, his on meds for his heart and a special diet for the stones. For now the meds seem to be helping but feel like I’m just prolonging his suffering

1 month, 1 week ago
hello
I have a chihuahua also that has been diagnosed with an enlarged heart but they did not give her any meds. I am curious what heart meds they gave you for your Pippin?
So sorry to hear about your companion's condition. I, too, have a 14-year-old long-haired Chihauhua/ Pomeranian mix dog that I adopted about six years ago and found out in January that he has an enlarged heart. My vet has me giving him Vetmedin, Furosemide and Enalapril twice daily. It seems to be helping. He was coughing so badly he'd wake me up in the night and I'd lay there listening to him for ten minutes straight. Now that he's on drugs, he's doing better: still playful, enjoys his walks and no more coughing. Good luck!!!
Princess
12 Years
Pomeranian
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs
Coughing
Swollen abdominal area
Labored breathing

3 of my poms have been diagnosed with enlarged heart over the years. 2 have passed on and now princess. All were seniors when rescued from bad situations. The loss of every one is so hard. But we will continue to rescue. Vet says Pomeranian are prone to the condition. Treatment and love for what time is left.

3 weeks, 1 day ago
Hi there,
I’m so very sorry to hear about your pom’s condition. I’m always so appreciative to hear about owners who take in rescues. You’re amazing! I have a 14 year old yorkie mix that has been diagnosed with an enlarged heart and CHF. She is still so full of life and has a terrific appetite but also has a nagging cough and difficulty catching her breath. She is on Medication and a diuretic. May I ask if there is anything you noticed that eases your pom’s discomfort? This is my first dog and the experience is really heart breaking right now. I just don’t want her to suffer. Any advice would be so appreciated.
Charle winthorpe belevedere paceway iii
10 Years
Lowchen
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs

He's got the indomitable spirit of a Lion and is one-tough-little-S-O-B! We've also had an x-ray and are starting him on a course of medications with diet and exercise adjustments.

2 weeks, 6 days ago
Bella
18 Years
Shih Tzu
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs

Not sure

2 weeks, 5 days ago
Sadie
11 Years
Shih Tzu
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs

She didn't survive. I was looking on here to see what signs I missed. She had none of the signs. She started having distress on Saturday evening and passed on Monday morning. I was devastated. The vet said she died of congested heart failure.

2 weeks, 4 days ago
Cassie
9 Years
Bichon Frise
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs

We are in the early stages of diagnosis. X-rays determined enlarged heart. Awaiting blood lab results before medication regiment is prescribed. Not certain what the future holds. My very active, loving dog is not herself. She is actually a Bichon Papillon mix.

1 week, 3 days ago
Mimi la rue
12 Years
Shih Tzu
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs

Not sure

3 days, 3 hours ago
Lady belle
8 Years
Chihuahua
Has An Enlarged Heart
Signs

I'm not sure

14 hours ago