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.
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Signs Your Dog May Have an Enlarged Heart
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.
- 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
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
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
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.
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
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.
For a referrel to your local university veternary teaching college! They are very up to date and they may be able to intervene!
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.
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
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?
My vet suggested we see a cardiologist. Is that the best way to get correct treatment?
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.
We never got to the stage of getting her on proper heart meds. I had multiple vets (half a dozen) diagnose/misdiagnose her. We were told multiple times that she was not “in heart failure.” She was on furosemide for her cough that a cardiologist stated was caused from a collapsed trachea, not from heart failure.
She was scheduled for another echo and passed away before they were able to examine her. She either went into heart failure that quickly, as many of her vets warned could happen, or she was misdiagnosed.
Find an Internist (not a regular vet) and do not become confused by multiple/varying opinions like I did. It hasn’t even been a month since she passed and it haunts me not knowing if there was more I could have done for her or done differently, or prolonged her suffering, as another poster suggested. I have no answers. I’m just left devastated and tormented. I had the honor of taking care of her the entire 15 years. I wish the best for all of your fur babies. Please do your research and listen to your gut.
Why I brought her to the vet:
She coughs after drinking water, when is seems she’s clearing her throat, when she’s super excited after making that awful honking noise and sometimes randomly through the day.
The vet seems to not be very concerned but just by looking at the X Ray, her heart was LARGE.
The vet said her heart should be 2.5 to 3 ribs wide and she was 4.5 ribs on both sides of her heart.
Her eating is normal, but she’s gained weight or is super swollen because of this issue.
I originally brought her in to the vet because of her honking and coughing- it has become way worse.
I’m worried after reading all of these people’s experiances that she will detoriate fast and I don’t believe my vet cares like he should.
Please I’d your baby sounds anything like mine, id love any advice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm not sure
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.
breaths are normal at 23 bpm, lungs clear