Can dogs have hearts attacks? What about other heart conditions? Are they susceptible to those? Dogs have hearts so it only makes sense that they would be just as vulnerable to the same heart problems that humans suffer from. Heart attacks are no exception.
Of course we want our dogs to live forever. However, the fact remains that perfect health is never a given. And heart health in particular is something that should be paid particularly close attention to.
Thus, we are going to explain everything you need to know about dogs and heart attacks.
Can dogs have attacks? Yes, they can. They can have them just as easily as humans.
However, as you will learn, the underlying causes of heart attacks are a little bit different for dogs than they are for humans.
What exactly is a heart attack?
A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood that brings oxygen and nutrients to the heart is cut off or significantly reduced. In other words, blood is blocked from reaching the heart muscle or “myocardium.”
Blood clots by themselves are actually a normal and healthy response that the body uses to regulate blood loss. For instance, when your dog gets a cut on his paw, blood cells called platelets rush to the damaged site and begin to clot that area.
However, this same process of clotting in the blood vessels or heart is unhealthy and dangerous. This excessive clotting is the most common cause of heart attacks in dogs.
Conversely, the most common cause of heart attacks in humans in atherosclerosis – when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up plaque within the arteries.
So can dogs have heart attacks?
Yes – Dogs can have heart attacks because dogs can experience myocardial infarction. Dogs can also experience heart disease, congestive heart failure, and other heart problems as well.
Because dogs are clearly different from people, the way in which they have heart attacks differs as well. Also your dog cannot tell you that they are having a heart attack! So it is very important to know what to look out for.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Dogs
What happens when a dog has a heart attack? In dogs, heart failure occurs relatively slow when compared to humans.
The following symptoms should be taken seriously as a sign or symptom of possible myocardial infarction:
- Breathing difficulties
- Reduced stamina
- Excessive Panting
- High Heart Rate
- Loss of Appetite
- Swollen Belly or Abdomen
- Discolored/blue gums
- Weight Loss
- Muscle Wasting
- Hind limb lameness or paralysis
- Stretching/Craning of the neck
In addition to these signs and symptoms, your dog will typically experience pain in his or her chest, which could spread to the forelimbs.
If you notice any of these signs and symptoms, accompanied by a depressed demeanor, see a veterinarian immediately.
If you notice severe pain, collapse, or paralysis, it is an emergency that requires immediate attention.
What causes heart attacks in dogs?
Heart attacks in dogs are typically the result of an underlying medical issue that has building up over time.
That’s why it is important to stay on top of your dog’s health.
The possible causes of heart attacks in dogs include:
- Atherosclerosis- While not as common a cause for dogs as in humans, plaque build-up is still a possibility. However, it is rare due to the fact that dogs have a natural resistance to atherosclerosis.
- Hypothyroidism- When the body is no longer producing enough thyroid hormone, this leads to weight gain which if left unchecked, can lead to obesity.
- Bacterial Infection – This can also block blood flow.
- Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)- Inflammation of the blood vessels can disrupt normal blood flow to the heart and can lead to myocardial infarction.
If you want to minimize the onset of any of these causes, it is advisable that you have your dog screened for heart disease at their annual vet appointment.
Diagnosing a Dog Heart Attack
If you think that your dog has either had a heart attack or is in the process of having a heart attack, you should immediately bring them to the vet.
DO NOT attempt CPR on your dog unless you are trained and comfortable doing so. If done incorrectly, it can actually cause more harm to your dog.
Another best practice if you think your dog is showing signs of a heart attack is to carefully wrap them in a blanket when you bring them to the vet.
The veterinarian will perform a series of tests to diagnose the problem. These include:
- Electrocardiography: determines cardiac electrical impulses and any abnormal heartbeat rhythms in your dog
- X-ray: identifies size of the heart, possible tumors, fluids
- Echocardiography: detects heart valve/muscle functioning; locates any fluid or masses in the heart
- Urinalysis: Assesses kidney and metabolism
- Complete Blood Cell Count: determines red/white blood cell count
- Blood Culture Biochemistry Profile: tests liver and kidney functioning