A diagnosis of an enlarged heart in your dog typically comes after specific symptoms have become apparent. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms are obvious, a significant amount of damage has typically occurred. Medications and diet modification can help to prolong and improve your dog's life.
Causes of an enlarged heart
The cause of an enlarged dog heart is not clear cut. Heart enlargement, and subsequent heart failure, typically occurs in large breed dogs, and may be associated with a taurine deficiency or parvovirus. Heart enlargement is generally uncommon in small breed dogs. Enlarged hearts pump the blood less efficiently and the condition of the heart deteriorates. As the heart's condition continues to decline, with thinning walls and a loss of tone, arrhythmias commonly develop.
Several symptoms may present themselves as the heart enlarges and becomes less efficient. Dogs with an enlarged heart typically show exercise intolerance, cough and pant excessively (even while at rest), suffer from abdominal bloating and even unconsciousness. Dogs who are exhibiting these symptoms are typically suffering from advanced heart damage and their life expectancy is only one to two years.
Veterinarians use a variety of methods to diagnose an enlarged heart. Dogs exhibiting the typical symptoms of an enlarged heart may receive an electrocardiogram, x-rays or an ultrasound of the heart.
Digitalis has been used extensively to treat dogs with heart failure. The drug is effective in helping the heart to contract. Diuretics are also used to help remove excess fluid build-up in the lungs and the abdomen. Blood flow issues are addressed with the use of ACE inhibitors. Procan SR or Mexitil are often used to control heart rhythm abnormalities.
Diet and supplements
Dogs with a diagnosis of heart enlargement can benefit from a diet that is low in sodium. Additionally, CoQ10 and taurine supplements can be beneficial. Researchers at the Peter Munk Cardiac Center have shown curcumin to be effective in reversing the enlarged hearts of mice, and restoring their heart function. Research is still under way on this spice and its ability to prevent and possibly reverse heart disease.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.