When one thinks of heart arrhythmias, one often thinks about the human heart. Dogs, man's best friend, also suffers from similar health problems. Heart arrhythmia occur in dogs after a disturbance in the normal rhythm of the heart. The heart starts beating too fast or too slow or beats to weakly or too strongly. Cardiac arrhythmias can occur in any dog of any age or sex. It has been seen that large dog breeds are more prone to atrial fibrillation. Labrador retrievers are at risk of developing supraventricular tachycardia and similarly, boxers are prone to ventricular tachycardia. These conditions arise due to irregularities in the generation as well as transmission of the electrical impulses within the heart. Let us have an overview of dog heart arrhythmia in following paragraphs.
Canine Heart Arrhythmias are Caused Due to
Abnormal electrical activity in the canine heart muscle leads to arrhythmias. These electrical activity abnormalities occur due to congenital heart abnormalities, environmental stress, genetic predisposition, infections like heartworm, blunt trauma to the chest cavity, ingestion of toxins, type of breed as well as underlying heart diseases.
Canine Heart Arrhythmia Symptoms Can Include
Weakness, slow/fast heart rate, erratic heart rate, unconsciousness, breathing difficulties, lack of appetite, etc. are often seen in the affected dog. There are different types of arrhythmias in dogs. These include bradycardia and tachycardia.
Bradycardia: In bradycardia (slow heartbeat), the dog suffers from lack of oxygen. This makes the dog appear weak and tired at all times. The dog may even feel a bit dizzy and confused due to lack of oxygen to the brain. Thus, the dog faints and collapses at times. Slow heartbeat means the heart is pumping blood at a lower rate. Thus, the amount of oxygen reaching the body cells also reduces leading to the above symptoms. The veterinarian may find the dog's heartbeat (at rest) to be as low as 60 beats/min. In small dog breeds, it may be about 80 beats/min.
Tachycardia: Those dogs with tachycardia suffer from rapid heartbeat. The dog normally does not show any symptoms, and the condition is detected during a regular check up. In some cases, a dog may appear weak or lethargic. It is important to seek treatment, or else the dog may suffer from irreversible heart damage.
Canine Heart Arrhythmia is Diagnosed After
Conducting an electrocardiogram will help the doctor have a look at the normal electric patterns of the heart. He may even order a complete blood count and biochemical profile. This will help him find any type of underlying health conditions. An echocardiogram will also help in evaluation of the cardiac function of the underlying heart disease.
Canine Heart Arrhythmia Treatment Includes
Drugs and medications that help regulate the heart muscles are prescribed by the veterinarian. These heart arrhythmia medications include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, digoxin, etc. Sometimes, the veterinarian treats the underlying condition to cure the heart arrhythmia. Sometimes, electric shock treatment may be advised depending on the type of arrhythmia. Many times, cardiac arrhythmias are totally harmless and do not require any specific treatment. But, some are very serious and can lead to life-threatening complications like congestive heart failure.
If a veterinarian suspects that a dog is at a risk of developing heart arrhythmia, the dog may be kept under observation. As far as home care is concerned, all one needs to do is give the dog his medications on time and watch his diet. Keep the dog comfortable and avoid any stress to the dog. Breeds such as Doberman, Afghan hounds, Newfoundland dog, Cocker spaniels, St. Bernard's, etc. are at risk of developing heart arrhythmia. Thus, these dogs should always be observed for any signs of heart ailments. One cannot actually cure heart arrhythmia in dogs. However, a good diet, regular exercises and regular veterinarian check ups will ensure that the dog remains healthy.