Can Dogs Live with Enlarged Hearts?

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8 Votes


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?

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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.
11 Months
Has An Enlarged Heart
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

7 months, 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.
If you have the money for a possible procedure I would ask
For a referrel to your local university veternary teaching college! They are very up to date and they may be able to intervene!
My jack russell age 11 diagnosed with enlarged hert told 6 months max hes on water and heart tablets its heartbreaking xx
I have a 9 yr old doberman with enlarged heart. If you Google stem cell clinical trials for dogs with enlarged hearts. They are available. And they look promising.
I have an 8 year old Doberman (male) and he was diagnosed with CHF in August. We found out that he is in the last stages of DCM and he showed no clinical signs prior. Days before we found out he had labored breathing and kept passing out. It was heartbreaking. We are told he has 6-12 months. Diesel is now on Vetmedin 2x daily, Benazepril 1x, spironolactone 2x daily. We’ve seen two cardiologists and they recommended fish oil, taurine supplements and a diet with no salt and MUST contain grains. He is doing good, we stopped his normal exercising and let him run around outside only for a minute or two and has an amazing appetite. Our only concern is he shakes or trembles for a couple of hours sometimes. We give him extra tons of love and affection.
Hi there, may I know how old is Poppy? I have a miniature poodle whom was just diagnosed with an enlarged heart. Ozzy is only 1 year and 7 mths this 21st of Nov. We are heartbroken =(
11 Years
Labrador Retriever
Has An Enlarged Heart
excessive panting,

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.

7 months, 2 weeks ago
Same here my boys on water tabets libeo and vetmedin for heart vet gave us 6 month max so enjoy every day xx
Our 10 year old mix breed dog was diagnosed in April with an enlarged heart , arrythmia, and CHF. He is on Lasix, Benazapril, Vetmedin and Trazadone.He has been coughing more and more at night and during the day. They told us back in April he had weeks or months. So stressful.
My Benji was recently diagnosed with an enlarged heart. He had fluid around the heart and was put on diuretics. He remains on diuretics to keep the fluids from coming back. No heart pills yet. Don't know if he will in the future, but it breaks my heart that he has this condition. I took him to the vet because he was coughing alot and I thought he was having allergy issues. I never suspected something like this. Benji is the best dog I've ever had. Very loving. If I'm sick, he seems to know and reacts very loving and comforting snuggles. I hope I have him for a long time, and I will do my best to make his life comfortable, as always.
My mini schnauzer, Moses, was just diagnosed at age 11. He is on Enalapril and is soooo lethargic. It’s frightening. Does their body eventually adjust to this medication?
9 Years
Has An Enlarged Heart

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

7 months, 1 week ago
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!!!
Good to know Summer! My 11 year old Min-Pin had an x-ray showing an enlarged heart and now he is on Vetmedin & Benapril but still passing out. He also takes phenobarb for seizures for many years now.
My vet suggested we see a cardiologist. Is that the best way to get correct treatment?
I just found out my Pomeranian Chino has and an enlarged heart (slightly)... they put him on four medications: Benazepril, Lasix, and Denosyl & Vetmedin. He was hacking frequently and panting a lot.
My 11 year old bichon/poodle was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and a significant heart murmur a year ago. We took her to a cardiologist and he put her on 50 mg. FUrosemide 3 times a day, vetmedin, Enalapril and now Theophylline. She still coughs a lot, but seems to be happy and wants her short walks and playtime. We just cherish every minute we can with our little love bug.
Summer H’s comment. These are the three meds our boston terrier is taking as well. She was diagnosed in August last year and told she had 3 months max. She is still kicking and happy as a clam. Of course she coughs still but the meds must certainly be helping :)
Also have a chow about 5yrs. Had huge unbreakable stone (both kinds) had surgery survived but has a murmur coughing enlRged heart. The coughing is so pathetic does a humidifier help?
My chihuahua Lola recently passed. She was diagnosed with a grade 2 heart murmur so would cough after excitement, exertion, and drinking cold water. My vet told me not to worry about the murmur so I didn't. Then in September she went to have a few teeth cleaned and the vet advised that when she's sedated is the best time to do blood work and x-rays. So I agreed. The x-rays came back stating that she had kidney stones and a mild, generalized cardiomegaly. My vet assured me that it wasn't concerning but the kidney stones were and we should start with medicated food which I did. On October 19 I had been out of the house with a friend and when I came home she was excited like she always was. I had her in my arms and she yelped and then did a long howl-like sound and collapsed in my arms. She had been prone to seizures when she hadn't eaten enough so I thought that's what it was but she was completely unresponsive. 30 seconds after she collapsed she made what sounded like a coughing sound so I thought she had regained consciousness. I patted her back and stood up with her. That's when her bladder emptied. We jumped in the car to take her to the emergency vet an hour away but after half hour she was still unresponsive. My vet told me that it was likely heart failure and she died when she collapsed, in my arms. I looked back over the xray info yesterday and researched cardiomegaly. Now I know that it was something that should've been taken seriously by the vet. Maybe she wouldn't have lived long judging by the stories on here but I would've had the time to be with her and I would know what was coming. I could've done something. All of you on here did something with the information and I wish I would've followed suit because maybe she would still be here.
I will keep you and Pippin in my thoughts. I know you think you're lengthening his suffering but unless he's in pain I think you're giving him a longer life. More time to be with you and be happy. You're doing something to help him with his ailments and giving him a chance. We never know as fur-parents whether we are doing the right thing. It's hard when our babies can't vocalize but they can use body language and behaviour. If Pippin isn't deteriorating and doesn't seem to be in pain, I think you're doing the right thing. You're being a good parent. I wish you both well.
12 Years
Has An Enlarged Heart
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.

6 months, 2 weeks 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.
my joes cardiologist also added to his regemin low salt diet and fish oil, said can put oil in his food. He is on 4 meds and is still coughing, vet increased vetiman to 3x a day to help drain fluid. His chf was caused by a heart murmur he was born with, he is 14 yrs old, but looks like its going to vet more often and overnite stays in oxygen tank. not sure if i should keep it going if it is going to be a long suffering ahead. He still eats well and seems to be normal except will not lay on his back which is his fav position to sleep. feel so bad for him.
He is suffering............................Living for you. Ask yourself if you would want to live your last years like this. I am doing my best to deal with whether to have my dog euthanized at 13 1/2 or go through this. I am going to lose her in the end anyway. Why prolong it?
Charle winthorpe belevedere paceway iii
10 Years
Has An Enlarged Heart

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.

6 months, 2 weeks ago
18 Years
Shih Tzu
Has An Enlarged Heart

Not sure

6 months, 2 weeks ago
My baby boy is 6 and we just found out about he's a shitzu to
11 Years
Shih Tzu
Has An Enlarged Heart

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.

6 months, 2 weeks ago
My 7 year old Yorkie, Sam a rescue died on Monday, November 5, 2018. I never knew he had an enlarged heart. Death was due to aspiration pneumonia. His Heart was pressing into his chest and airway. With or without oxygen administered did not allow the oxygen level to stabilized . His lungs were filled with fluid. My heart was torn apart - such a horrific pain. Sam distress came Saturday morning and he was gone on Monday. I am tormented that had I known or informed by my Vet, I would had changed whatever to keep him with me.
9 Years
Bichon Frise
Has An Enlarged Heart

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.

6 months, 1 week ago
Blood work showed she also has digestive issues including liver and possibly pancreas. She is on petmedin twicedaily and Prilosec. Returns next month for repeated blood work. She lost almost a pound in 10 days. She weighs 14 #.
I also have a Bichon and he was just diagnosed with an enlarged heart and a heart murmur- How is your dog doing? I am so worried that I am just prolonging the inedible. what meds are you giving Cassie?
Mimi la rue
12 Years
Shih Tzu
Has An Enlarged Heart

Not sure

6 months ago
Lady belle
8 Years
Has An Enlarged Heart

I'm not sure

5 months, 4 weeks ago
10 Years
Shih Tzu
Has An Enlarged Heart

Lilly was diagnosed about 8 months ago. The Vet said she as not ready to be put on medication yet. If properly taken care of she could live several more years. She is extremely active, but seems to sleep a little more.

5 months, 3 weeks ago
Our Mani was diagnosed with a heart murmur during his wellness check shortly after we adopted him. At the time, he also had kennel cough (from being in the shelter) so there were no obvious symptoms. We've had him 8 months now and there are fires in the area creating smoke that we thought contributed to more coughing and gagging than usual. Took him to vet and x-rays show enlarged heart. However, his heart rhythm is normal and there is no fluid in his lungs, so no meds at this time. I am feeling as though there is nothing we can do for him but love and best care possible.
11 Years
Has An Enlarged Heart
heart murmu
had EGG
has Mitral valve disease

breaths are normal at 23 bpm, lungs clear

5 months, 2 weeks ago
My chihuahua has the same thing and looks exactly like your dog. He is 14. 1/2. His name is sterling. He is on 3 meds a day now. We took him in bc of the choking and gagging. Send me your email and I can send u a pic. It’s crazy how similar they look.