Canine Vascular Disease

An annual physical can detect some early signs of vascular diseases.
An annual physical can detect some early signs of vascular diseases. (Image: Ljiljana Jankovic/iStock/Getty Images)

Your dog's vascular system includes his heart and entire circulatory system, literally his lifeblood. Canine vascular disease consists of any issue disrupting that normal blood flow. Some dogs genetically are predisposed to vascular disease, while other conditions are more common in aging pets. Some canine vascular diseases respond to treatment if caught in time, while others don't have a good prognosis.

Canine Stroke

Dogs can suffer strokes -- also known as vascular accidents -- just as people do. These accidents occur when a blood clot affects the brain, or any incident involving bleeding or circulation in the brain. Canine stroke symptoms include circling, weakness on one side of the body, seizures, eyes moving back and forth, head tilt and any sudden neurological problems. If your dog exhibits any of these behaviors, take him to the emergency veterinarian at once. With medication and supportive treatment, some dogs can recover from vascular accidents.

Heart Disease

Perhaps the best known of the vascular ailments is cardiovascular, or heart disease. Early symptoms of heart disease include exercise intolerance, breathing difficulties, sleep issues and fainting. At your dog's annual physical, your vet will check your pet's heart for signs of potential heart disease, including heart murmurs, abnormal heart rate or odd-colored membranes. If your dog shows any of these signs, your vet might recommend you consult a veterinary cardiologist. Depending on the issue, medication or surgery can help your dog.

Liver Disease

Canine vascular disease affecting the liver involves genetic malformations primarily affecting small, purebred dogs -- although such anomalies can occur in mixed breed and larger animals. Microvascular dysplasia usually affects terriers and consists of abnormal branches of finer veins within the liver's portal veins, through which blood from the intestinal tract flows. Dogs with this condition can live normal lives, but care must be taken if the animal receives some medications. A portosystemic shunt occurs when blood bypasses the liver and potential toxins aren't eliminated by the organ. This birth defect results in poor growth, seizures, head pressing and a dog that's generally "out of it." While dietary changes and medication can help, many dogs require surgery to correct the problem.

Peripheral Disease

Peripheral disease occurs in the links making up the cardiovascular system. Those are the veins, arteries, capillaries, arterioles, venules and the lymphatic system. Examples of peripheral disease include aneurysms, in which a blood vessel bulges and a clot forms, blocking the vessel. Often, the first indication of an aneurysm is sudden death. If the dog survives, the prognosis depends on the location of the clot. Other peripheral diseases include arteriosclerosis -- hardening of the arteries -- and phlebitis, or superficial vein inflammation.

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