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Shoreview, MN


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Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog

All About the Heart (Heart Disease & Heartworm in Dogs)


Because dogs typically consume a healthier diet than humans do, it’s rare for them to develop coronary artery disease. However, they can develop a condition known as progressive heart failure. Veterinarians consider this a disease of aging and not of lifestyle. Congestive heart failure means that the heart slowly loses the ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. It ultimately affects other organs as well. 

Dogs can live with this condition for many years without showing obvious signs of it. It’s common for dogs with congestive heart failure to eventually display an intolerance to exercise. You will notice that your dog can’t catch his breath and that he seems to take longer to recover from intense exercise than usual. Other common age-related heart conditions in dogs include:

  • Arrhythmias: A problem with the electrical system of the heart that affects the way it beats
  • Chronic valvular disease: This involves weakness and/or leaking of the heart valves
  • Myocardia disease: The heart enlarges due to weakened muscles
  • Pericardial disease: The protective sac around the heart fills with fluid and prevents a normal heartbeat

It can be difficult to know that your dog has a heart condition when she displays no symptoms for years. When symptoms finally do appear, they can mimic those of several other health conditions. We encourage you to schedule an appointment at Minnesota Veterinary Hospital right away if you notice any of the following:

  • A dry cough immediately after exercise or one that appears worse at night
  • Fainting spells
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Weight loss

Our veterinarians will run several tests to determine the source of the problem and discuss a variety of treatment options for managing your dog’s heart condition. It will typically involve a special exercise program and prescription medication.


Heartworm is an aggressive parasite that can have serious or fatal consequences for your dog. It only takes a single bite from an infected mosquito to introduce heartworm into your dog’s body. The parasite lives within the chambers of your dog’s heart. Because it can reproduce dozens of times and grow to a length of 12 inches, a severe heartworm infestation makes it difficult for your dog to breathe. That is because the worms eventually travel from the heart to the lungs. Other symptoms you should watch for include:

  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Inactivity
  • Nosebleeds
  • Seizures
  • Weight loss

Unlike age-related heart disease that is difficult to control, heartworm is nearly 100 percent preventable. We offer a variety of heartworm prevention products for both dogs and cats in our online store. Although the disease is far more common in dogs, it’s also easier to treat. There is no cure for heartworm in cats at the present time, which is why prevention is so essential. We also recommend that you provide your dog or cat with year-round heartworm prevention. Please contact Minnesota Veterinary Hospital at 651-484-3331 with additional questions about your pet’s heart health.

Photo credit: Name / Getty Images