Heart Conditions in Dogs

heart conditions in dogs

A topic we haven’t discussed yet on this blog is heart conditions in dogs.

With up to 60% of old dogs having heart problems, it’s about time we covered this topic, don’t you think!!

Red and her heart issue

It wouldn’t be a post on this site without Red making an appearance, and as it often goes with the territory, she can relate to the topic at hand. She has a heart murmur, has had one for several years, and when it became a 3.5 or Red needs holistic vet careso (out of 5) she was prescribed 2.5mg of Fortekor once daily (at times twice). At some point later (I can’t remember when that was), 10mg of Prilactone, twice a day, was added.

To make a long story short, I haven’t been happy with the amount of drugs Red was taking. Every time there was an issue, there was another prescription. Since we were re-locating for a few months and needed a new vet anyway, I decided it was going to be a holistic practice.

She is still on Prilactone, but Fortekor is gathering dust in the cupboard, replaced with a supplement. On my next visit this Friday I’m going to get the details on what’s in it and will let you know.

I learned something very interesting about heart murmurs the other day

I have had both cats and dogs diagnosed with heart murmurs, but because they were very low on the 0-5 scale, no medications were ever prescribed. Red is the only one that started taking any drugs because her heart murmur was creeping up to 3-4.

I know this post is about senior dogs, but my younger dog Jack (he’s around 4 1/2ish) was diagnosed with a small heart murmur probably around a year ago. A couple of weeks ago I asked my holistic vet, Pepe, to take a listen and let me know what he thought. He said it was quite a mild one, but couldn’t give more details until he took x rays and an EKG. If this were a couple of the practices I’ve had the misfortune of being a patient at, I would believe it was simply for the money, but not Pepe.

Anyway, last week we had the tests done and he explained there was a problem with the left atrium. The valve wasn’t closing completely, there was no reason to worry, and he graded it a 2.

Here comes the interesting part.

Typically, until a dog’s murmur reaches the 3.0-3.5 range no intervention is taken by a vet, and that has certainly been my experience…until now. Pepe explained that a few years ago he heard a lecture by a very well-known cardiologist from France, who recommended treating even the mildest cases in order to prevent them from becoming major cases. It’s a philosophy that certainly makes sense.

While heart surgery is a common occurrence in human medicine, the same cannot be said about veterinary medicine. That makes dealing with a heart problem sooner even more important, as not much may be able to help severe conditions.  

Since that lecture, every patient that comes in with even the slightest murmur is started on a supplement. Notice I said supplement, not a drug. If a drug would become necessary at some point, of course he would recommend it.

Jack is now taking a half of the same supplement Red is taking, and we will monitor his condition yearly.

Anyway, that’s my experience with heart conditions, but I’m sure you’d like to learn more than this!!

I always do extra research when it comes to an issue one of my pets is experiencing, and this time was no different. I read a very interesting article called “Don’t Let Your Dog Be the Next Casualty of Deadly Heart Disease.”  I hope you find it as informative as I have.

Heart conditions in dogs – conclusion

You’ve read about some of the signs that indicate your dog may be suffering from a heart condition (coughing, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing and fatigue to name a few), so if you notice these or anything else out of the ordinary, no matter how slight, call your vet.

Senior dogs can go downhill very quickly and for that reason I never adopt a “wait and see” attitude with any of them.

I hope you have found this post on heart conditions in dogs helpful, and if you have experienced this with your dog why not share your story in the comments section below, or on my Facebook page.

Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

6 Comments

  1. Talent Hounds

    Good for you for listening to your gut about Red’s medications. I think it’s so important to believe in your intuition about things like that and I hope this new course of action will help. It’s also so great to hear Pepe is encouraging people to take action before conditions like a heart murmur get to the point of needing medication- Caring for a senior dog can take a lot of compassion and boy can those vet bills ever pile up. Hopefully Jack’s new supplement will make a big difference in the long run as he gets older.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      My vet in England is so amazing, but I couldn’t handle the amount of drugs being prescribed. Every time there was an issue, there was a new medication but that’s a typical attitude isn’t it! It can definitely be challenging at times, not to mention worrying and stressful, but I love Red with my whole being and it’s my responsibility to take the best care of her that I can. Don’t even talk about vet bills!

      Reply
  2. Ruth Epstein

    Great post and as Layla ages I am learning more and was so relieved last week when my vet told me Layla is really healthy for her age – I do bi-annual check ups now to keep a really good eye on her

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thanks Ruth, and yes I was so happy to read Layla is healthy and everything was fine. Unfortunately these days Red is a much more frequent visitor than twice a year, but you’re right – it’s all part of keeping a close eye on our beloved animals as they get older (which I’m in denial about by the way!!).

      Reply
  3. Dash Kitten Crew

    A comprehensive and useful post. We appreciate it, and had idea idea about alternatives to Fortekor. It WAS a help to our late kitty Weasley who we also took on as a fragile senior.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thanks, so glad you think so! I’ve used Fortekor for years, but my holistic vet prescribed her a natural alternative which does the same thing. With the amount of drugs she’s taking, if I can replace any with a natural supplement that will do the same job I’m happy to try.

      Reply

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