Congestive Heart Failure
In dogs, heart failure is usually characterized by problems with the mitral valve. This is especially true of smaller breeds, but is applicable to at least some extent with all dogs. The mitral valve refers to the muscular valve that separates the left atrium and ventricle. Its function, when working properly, is to prevent the back flow of blood once it has passed through one section of the heart to increase the efficiency of the heart's pumping, i.e. - each portion of blood that passes through the heart only needs to be pumped once because the mitral valve prevents it from flowing backwards. Over time, however, this valve begins to shrink and harden as a natural consequence of aging. [...]
Although any breed of dog can potentially develop congestive heart failure it is most commonly known to affect smaller breeds of dogs. To further add to the problem often these dogs exhibit few symptoms or signs to alert their owners to the ongoing, serious health condition that is slowly decreasing the heart's ability to function correctly. Since the signs of congestive heart failure are often very similar to what might be reasonable expected behaviors of an aging dog, often owners miss the first few subtle signs or assume they are just old age setting in.
There are three common and clear signs that owners of small breeds should be carefully monitoring their dogs for. These include decreasing energy and stamina levels, increased problems in breathing and increases in coughing either when exercising or when resting. [...]
There are many different heart conditions that can occur in dogs. Some conditions such as cardiomyopathy are common in a wide variety of breeds while other conditions such as mitral valve problems are more specific to particular breeds.
Heart conditions are very difficult to diagnose as often the symptoms are rather subtle initially and the owner's often attribute the lack of energy and alertness typical of many of the conditions to be a natural function of aging. Since most heart conditions occur in older or middle age dogs this is perfectly normal presumption that often leads to the condition being too advanced for effective treatment once the condition has been diagnosed.
Common heart conditions and their causes, symptoms and treatments are listed below: [...]