Back in the old days, when I first started in veterinary medicine, if your dog developed heart disease, they were put on lasix and digoxin and were given the prognosis of living another 6 months. With todays' advances dogs can live much longer and with a dramatically better quality of life.
Much the same way as with humans, there are many types of heart problems. Some are congenital (present since birth and based on genetics) or can occur as a dog ages. The two most common types of heart disease that may lead to heart failure are disease of the heat valve and disease of the heart muscle, itself.
Certain breeds have more problems with their hearts than others. Smaller dogs tend to have problems with the heart valves while larger breeds have problems with the heart muscle.
Some of the smaller breeds with issues are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels,Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Boston Terriers. They experience the most common form of heart disease, atrioventricular valvular insufficiency (AVVI) or mitral valve disease (MVD). We often diagnose heart disease when our veterinarians detect a heart murmur. The valves which open and close to control blood flow to the heart, can thicken, become uneven, and allow blood to leak backwards.
Large dogs, such as Great Danes, Boxers, Dobermans, and Dalmations more commonly get disease of the heart muscle. This is also known as DCM or dilated cardiomyopathy. The heart, which is actually the muscle that pumps blood throughout the body, becomes very large, weak, and ineffective. Its walls become stretched and thin.
Some of the most common signs of heart disease include coughing, exercise intolerance, decreased appetite, and fainting or collapsing.
Either type of disease can cause the heart to work harder to keep up with the body's needs. This can cause more damage and lead to heart failure.
Heart disease can be helped with medications, diet and some simple lifestyle changes. For more info, go to: