There are several different kinds of heart diseases that can affect puppies and dogs. Just like with people, some dogs appear more likely to get these disease based on their genetic make-up as well as their lifestyle and nutrition. In some cases heart disease are more problematic within the breed as a whole and reputable breeders continue to carefully select breeding pairs to avoid any problems with passing on the condition to future generations.
One type of heart disease that can happen in almost any breed of dog is a congenital heart condition. This is a heart malformation or disease that is present when the puppy is born. It can be genetic or be caused by a birth defect or injury or trauma when the puppy was developing. Often females that are stressed through disease, poor nutrition or injury during pregnancy are far more likely to have puppies with congenital conditions. The most common types of congenital heart conditions are problems with the mitral valves, malformation of the shunts between the chambers of the heart and malformation of the heart itself. Weak areas or poor development of the heart muscle can also be a congenital condition that will progressively worsen if the dog becomes stressed or ill with any other type of condition.
The more common cause of heart disease in dogs is known as an acquired condition. This is a disease or condition that develops after the puppy is born and is more typically in unhealthy or obese dogs in general. This heart disease may be caused by two separate problems, one being incorrect operation of the valves of the heart and weakening of the heart muscle itself. With valve problems the heart isn't effective in pumping blood through the body since the valve allows some blood to flow backwards through the heart, decreasing overall blood flow and forcing the heart to work harder. With weakened heart muscle function blood pressure is decreased resulting in poor blood flow due to weak pumping action.
Since the heart is a muscle, any damage to the organ will become worse with time as the muscle continues to work. With constant over-work, the heart begins to swell and decrease its functioning even further, often resulting in fatal heart failure. Early detection of any type of heart disease is key to treating and managing the condition. Every puppy and dog should be checked at their yearly examination for heart functioning and any murmurs or abnormal sounds of the heart should be fully checked immediately.
In addition to regular vet checks it is important to manage your dog's weight and overall health. Obese dogs and dogs with parasite infestations, bacterial and viral infections and general poor health are much more likely to experience heart disease than well maintained and adequately exercised dogs.
Watch for signs of lethargy, coughing, despondency, low energy levels, fainting, vomiting, trouble breathing or swelling of the abdominal area as significant indicators of possible heart disease.