Understanding Canine Heart Disease
Research estimates that 7.8 million, approximately 10 percent of dogs in the United States have heart disease. Despite these shocking numbers, owners are still oblivious to the fact that their Chi could develop heart disease. Heart disease for us means smoking and fatty diets put us at greater risks, for Chihuahua’s and other dogs it’s much more complicated. In fact, the most common form, valvular disease, affects mainly smaller breeds over five-years-old.
Signs of Heart Disease
Signs and symptoms of heart disease in Chi’s vary depending on the type of heart disease and the severity of the disease. Early onset of heart disease may have no symptoms at all. However, once this horrible sickness progresses to congestive heart failure, your Chi will develop more obvious symptoms such as lethargy, fatigue, difficulty breathing, weight loss, distended stomach, coughing and trouble sleeping.
Causes of Heart Disease
There are many conditions that can lead to heart disease in Chi’s and a variety of conditions leading to congestive heart failure. The most common cause is chronic valve disease, but other causes include:
- Defects in the heart walls
- Fluid in the sac surrounding the heart
- Heart rhythm abnormalities
- Heartworm disease
- Increased blood pressure
Preventing Heart Disease
Diet and exercise are known to help prevent many diseases, unfortunately it has not been found to prevent heart disease in Chi’s. The only form of heart disease that can be prevented is heartworms. It’s important to keep your Chi on a year-round heartworm medication to prevent this ugly disease. Routine visits to your Chi’s veterinarian will help catch heart disease while it is still asymptomatic. Early signs of heart disease are murmurs and irregular rhythms. If heart disease is a suspicion, your vet will order additional tests, ultrasounds and x-rays. Once all test has been read by professionals, treatment can be started, and this is what will help improve your Chi’s quality of life and extend their life expectancy.
Treatment for Heart Disease
Treatment will depend greatly on the type and severity of heart disease, but it will likely be in the form of medications. Many Chihuahua’s will be prescribed either furosemide, enalipril or vetmedin and all of these are known to cause an upset belly. Some Chihuahua’s will require blood thinners, some will need blood measure medications, and others may only need supplements. No matter what medication your Chi is prescribed, consistency is essential to proper treatment.
Chihuahua’s are one breed prone to heart diseases and defective valves. While it is not preventable, there are measures you can take to help, such as being informed and knowing the disease you are dealing with. Early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference when it comes to heart disease and your Chi.