PetMeds® Do Dogs have Heart Attacks?

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This was a recent question asked by the guardian of an 11 year old Bichon who has a rapid heart beat and shakes when it’s cold or he is scared.  While it sounds like this pet dog Samson likely is just responding to anxiety with a rapid heart rate under these circumstances, certainly other dogs do develop heart disease, typically of the heart valves or heart muscles. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chronic coughing as well as fluid in the chest or abdomen.  In certain types of heart disease dogs may experience sudden death which can be from clots that form, an irregular rhythm of the heart, and/or what we would call a heart attack.

Usual tests needed to diagnose family pets with heart disease include a extensive physical exam, chest X-rays, an electrocardiogram to discover abnormal rhythms of the heart, and an echocardiogram to look at blood flow in the heart, as well as heart chamber size and the ability of the heart muscle to contract.  once a certain diagnosis of heart disease is made, proper medication can be prescribed.

Amongst the most common medications used include Furosemide to help minimize fluid retention in the lungs. ACE inhibiters, such as Enalapril or Benazepril can help dilate the blood vessels in front of and behind the heart in aiding in contraction, as well as lower blood pressure.

Newer drugs such as Vetmedin also can help with blood vessel dilation, as well as help with heart muscle contraction. If needed and based on electrocardiogram, antiarrhythmic drugs are often needed and can be prescribed on a case by case basis by your veterinarian.

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