Signs & Symptoms of Dogs With Heart Problems

By Catherine Hiles

Heart problems can be difficult to diagnose in dogs, as dogs are good at hiding pain and do not tend to show symptoms of medical problems until the condition is greatly progressed. Some breeds, such as boxers, cairn terriers, Labrador retrievers and Great Danes, are more prone to heart problems than others. There are some symptoms to watch out for with any dog that could suggest heart problems.

Difficulty Breathing

If your dog is having trouble breathing and is coughing persistently, he may be in heart failure. The coughing and breathing trouble is a direct symptom of pulmonary edema-an accumulation of fluid in the dog's lungs. Your dog also might be panting more often in an attempt to cool and calm himself. If your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, take him to the vet immediately to be diagnosed and treated.


Dogs with heart problems show a decline in stamina and an increase in fatigue. This is particularly clear if your dog is usually active. If you're concerned about your dog's sudden decrease in activity, make a trip to the vet to have her checked out.

Unsteady Walking

If your dog suddenly begins to walk strangely and unsteadily, or even collapses, this could be a sign that he is having a heart attack. This behavior is a reaction to the sudden chest pain he may be feeling. He also might sit or lay in a strange position to try to dull the pain in his chest. Unsteady walking warrants a quick trip to the vet for a checkup, regardless of whether he has previously shown signs of heart problems.

Blue Tongue

A blue tinted tongue can suggest a weak heart in a dog. Your dog's heart is likely not working hard enough to push blood to all parts of his body. This might also be accompanied by excessive drooling. These symptoms suggest a heart murmur in a dog. Your vet can check your dog's heart by listening with a stethoscope for irregularities.

Rapid Heartbeat

If your dog's heart is beating more quickly than usual, he may be experiencing heart failure. The heart must work to pump blood all around your dog's body, and if it cannot pump enough blood, the heartbeat will speed up to try to compensate. Since a fast heartbeat in a dog can also be a sign of fear or adrenaline, this is only a concern if paired with another symptom of heart problems.