Signs & Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Dogs

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Dogs very rarely have heart attacks in the same way that humans do. Heart attacks are most commonly caused by a blockage in the arteries. This is usually due to high cholesterol or fat buildup and domesticated animals rarely have high cholesterol.

What is a Heart Attack?

  • A heart attack, known as a myocardial infarction, is the destruction of heart tissue due to loss of blood supply. When blood, which carries oxygen, cannot reach the heart tissue, its cells begin to die. Eventually, the tissue is unable to function properly and the heart stops.

Causes

  • The most common cause of a heart attack is a blockage in one of the body's main arteries. This blockage cuts off the heart's blood supply, damaging heart tissue and the organ's ability to function. These blockages are typically caused by the buildup of lipids (like cholesterol) and white blood cells on the wall of the artery. Heart defects or malformations can act in the same way, by making it difficult for the heart to pump blood from one side to the other or restricting blood flow. Eventually these heart conditions can lead to myocardial infarction as well.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

  • If you suspect your dog may be experiencing heart problems, observe its behavior and see if any of these symptoms appear.General weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and cough can all be caused by heart trouble. If you notice swelling in your dog's abdomen and limbs, this could be another indicator. Poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation can occur due to lack of circulation to digestive organs. Another sign of decreased circulation is discoloring of the tongue. If your dog's tongue or gums are bluish instead of pink, this could be a sign of poor circulation. Unfortunately, in cases of acute myocardial infarction, unexpected death is the indicator that a heart attack has occurred.

Prevention/Solution

  • You can reduce your dog's risk of a heart attack by feeding him a proper diet. Many foods people eat regularly can be harmful to an animal's body. Dogs do not process ingredients like starch nearly as well as humans do. For this reason, look for a quality dog food that is low in fat. Regular exercise also increases overall health and heart function. One of the best things you for your pet's health is schedule regular veterinary checkups. If you notice any of the above symptoms, mention them to your vet so he can determine if an electrocardiogram or other heart-related test is needed. Preventative maintenance like prescription medication or routine tests can go a long way in reducing the risk of heart attack.

Risk Factors

  • If your dog has a history of diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity, he made be at risk for developing heart problems or having a heart attack. Age is also an indicator, as older dogs are more prone to heart attacks.

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