• Heart problems dog
  • Heart problems cat

Heart problems dog

Heart problems dog

What next?

If your dog has been diagnosed with a heart problem, don't be alarmed right away. With the help of appropriate medication and an adapted diet, we can influence and improve quality of life and longevity. Unfortunately, we cannot eliminate the cause. A heart problem can be present at birth but can also develop in old age. The most common heart problems are caused by the valves in the heart (valve insufficiency) or by the heart muscle itself (cardiomyopathy).

Valve insufficiency

This is the most common problem and is often seen in older dogs of the smaller breeds. It is particularly common in chihuahuas, terriers, caveliers and poodles. Due to wear and tear on the heart valves, they can no longer close properly and blood can flow back into the atrium. We can hear this using the stethoscope as a murmur: the heart murmur. Initially, the dog does not have to have any symptoms of this at all, some dogs even live for years without any problems.

But in time and due to worse valve wear, dogs show symptoms of heart failure which usually manifests as coughing and shortness of breath. You may also notice that your dog tires more quickly.


Often the cause of disease of the heart muscle is unknown. It is mostly seen in the larger and giant breeds in middle-aged dogs. Again, there are breeds that have this problem more often such as boxers, dobermanns, pinchers, Great Danes, bouviers, setters and cocker spaniels. Because the muscle is not working properly, the heart cannot contract/pump sufficiently, causing the muscle to become flaccid and the heart to stretch and enlarge. As a result, insufficient blood flows through the body and the problems arise. In this heart condition, the problems will usually arise more acutely. The dog is lethargic, unwell, has a swollen fat belly, loses weight and has greatly reduced stamina, may start coughing or is stuffy and sometimes even faints. In these patients, life expectancy is markedly reduced.


By having your dog's health checked regularly, heart disease can be detected early. At the annual vaccination, we check your entire dog, including the heart. Using a stethoscope, we listen to the heart and check for heart murmurs, among other things. Large blood vessels run in the groin where we can feel your dog's "pulse". Furthermore, we assess the mucous membranes in the mouth, which tells us something about the body's blood flow. The moment we find that there is something wrong with the heart, several additional investigations are possible, namely X-rays, ultrasound or an ECG (heart film).


On X-rays, we can assess the heart and lungs, among other things. We look at the size and shape of the heart. In addition, we look at the lungs to see if fluid accumulates in them or other problems are present.


Ultrasound can be used to assess the heart in action; the thickness of the heart muscle wall can be assessed and the atria and chambers of the heart can be looked at. You will also get a picture of how the flow of blood is going. So an ultrasound is the best way to assess heart function.


With an electrocardiogram (ECG), you can see the heart rate and electrical activity of the heart, thus visualizing cardiac arrhythmias, among other things.


As mentioned earlier, we cannot remove the cause. However, we can support the heart with lifelong medication and an adapted diet. What kind of medication your dog needs depends on the heart problem and how severe it is. Some patients have such a mild heart condition that no medication is required at this stage. Of course, it is always important to maintain your dog's weight to avoid additional strain on the heart. Once heart disease has been diagnosed, getting your dog checked regularly is vital. This way, we can continue to monitor the effect of any medication, in addition to your dog's general condition.

Do you have any questions following the above information? If so, please contact us.

Heart problems cat

Heart problems cat

Your cat has been diagnosed with a heart problem. In some cases, no therapy is needed and we keep a close eye on your cat. But it may be that it is better for your cat's health to institute therapy.

Below you will find information about the heart and heart problems:

What is and what does the heart do?

The heart is a muscle that is hollow and pumps blood around. It consists of two chambers and two atria. Mammals, such as cats and humans, have a small and a large circulatory system. In the small one, blood is pumped to the lungs, after which oxygen is taken in. In the heart, the large circulatory system pumps the oxygen-rich blood throughout the body to oxygenate all cells to the furthest reaches.

The heart wall is composed of four layers: the endocardium (the inner lining), the myocardium (the muscle layer of the heart), the epicardium (the membrane) and, as the outermost layer, the pericardium (the pericardium). Pumping out blood is an active process; the heart muscle contracts (systole). Systole is followed by the relaxation and rest phase (in which the muscle cells 'recharge' themselves for the next contraction), diastole.

During diastole, the atria and ventricles fill with blood again. This is a passive process.

Only at the end of diastole when the atria contract, more blood is forced into the ventricles. This puts a little strain on them, making the contraction of the ventricles extra powerful. Diastole lasts about twice as long as systole. During strenuous exercise, the heart will have to contract more frequently to bring enough blood (and thus oxygen) to the muscles.

When the heart beats faster, the duration of diastole is shortened. When diastole is shortened, less blood can be pumped into the heart. This, of course, contrasts with the very larger amount of blood the body needs. In animals with a heart problem, something goes wrong during the process explained above, the heart is unable to adapt sufficiently to the animal's exertion.

There are several heart diseases: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) This is the most common heart disease in cats. In this condition, cats have a thickened heart muscle wall.

As a result, the heart's chamber will become smaller and thus less blood can enter it.

Not enough blood is then pumped into the body, which can cause problems. HCM can be an isolated disease or be caused by another condition, such as hypertension, thyroid gland working too hard, a kidney problem. It is therefore important to check other organ systems when a heart problem is diagnosed.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM) This condition occurs only in cats.

It is less common than HCM. In this heart condition, the chambers can no longer relax sufficiently (hence the name restriction), so blood cannot be pumped around as effectively. Congestive cardiomyopathy (CCM) In this heart condition, the heart muscle is weakened.

The heart 'lubs out', preventing it from beating as vigorously. Less blood enters the blood vessels as a result. The animal's body reacts to this by squeezing the blood vessels a little tightly to maintain blood pressure. However, this forces the heart to work even harder.

Heart problems are not immediately visible on the outside of a cat. Your cat does not have to have any symptoms at all at first. During the annual check-up, a heart murmur or an excessively fast heartbeat may be found as a chance finding. As the heart condition gets worse, problems may arise. Your cat may have reduced appetite, lose weight, be lethargic and/or suffer from shortness of breath. In the worst case, acute paralysis of the hind leg or legs occurs because a blood clot has become stuck in the arteries (thrombosis).

The earlier a heart problem is detected, the better. To determine the cause of the heart problem, further examination is necessary. This can be done with blood tests, blood pressure measurement, ultrasound, X-rays and an ECG (an electrocardiogram).


Ultrasound allows you to assess the heart in action; you can assess the thickness of the heart muscle wall and look at the atria and chambers of the heart. You will also get a picture of how the blood flow is in the heart. So, an ultrasound is the best way to assess heart function.


On X-rays, we can assess the heart and lungs, among other things. We look at the size and shape of the heart. We also look at the lungs and chest cavity to see if fluid is accumulating in them or if any other problems are present.

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