The cardiovascular pathologies to which we will refer provide many handicaps for their proper management, such as the fact that they usually present symptoms that could be confused with pulmonary pathologies.
To avoid this confusion as much as possible, let’s focus on the main characteristics of congenital cardiovascular problems in dogs.
congenital heart problems
While the puppy develops inside its mother, various alterations can occur that will be perceptible even from the moment of the animal’s birth; Of the congenital heart pathologies of the dog, we will comment on the possibly most frequent ones.
Patent ductus arteriosus
The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel of great circulatory importance for the life of the fetus; Its main function is to allow the blood that arrives oxygenated by the placenta to reach the general circulation. When birth occurs and the lungs become functional, the ductus arteriosus must be closed physiologically; when this does not happen, when the conduit “persists” the problem occurs.
This pathology is due to a deficiency of the smooth muscle that surrounds the blood vessel (hypoplasia). It affects females more than males and among the breeds with a greater predisposition to suffer from it are the German Shepherd, Toy Poodle, Pomeranian, Yorky, Maltese…
Among the main symptoms that may occur we have cough, respiratory distress (dyspnea) and increased respiratory rate (tachypnea); puppies can also suffer from growth retardation, intolerance to exercise…
To confirm the problem, the veterinarian will begin with auscultation followed by various diagnostic tests such as electrocardiogram, radiology, echocardiography…
Once the diagnosis has been made and the problem confirmed, we must bear in mind that a diagnosed and untreated animal will die of heart failure in the first years of its life.
Regarding treatment, this basically involves surgery.
The intervention consists of ligation of the duct. Recovery is usually very good, depending mainly on the state in which the animal was found before the intervention.
This pathology refers to a problem of “narrowing” of the heart’s aortic valve.
This pathology varies in its severity depending on the anatomical location of the narrowing; A narrowing in the valve itself (valvular), below the valve (subvalvular), or above the valve (supravalvular) is not the same, nor does it produce the same effect. The most common stenosis of the three is subvalvular or subaortic stenosis.
Aortic stenosis usually affects large and giant breeds; Among those that suffer from the problem more frequently we have the Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Boxer, Golden…
When a dog has this problem, it may not show any symptoms; In the case of the presence of symptoms, we can observe intolerance to exercise, “fainting”, and even sudden death.
To make a correct diagnosis of the problem, the professional will start with auscultation followed by electrocardiograms, x-rays and echocardiograms.
Once the problem has been confirmed and the degree of severity has been assessed, the treatment focuses on preventing sudden death, improving exercise intolerance and avoiding “fainting”.
The animals that have been diagnosed as mild have a normal life and only rarely present any symptoms; a high percentage of those with severe obstructions (more than 50%) die within the first three years of life.
Pulmonary stenosis could be defined as the narrowing of the pulmonary valve of the heart; As in the case of aortic stenosis, pulmonary stenosis can also be subvalvular, valvular, or supravalvular.
The breeds most affected by this problem are Boxers, Beagles, Bassets, Bulldogs, Chow Chows… the majority of affected animals may not show symptoms during their first year of life and if they do show symptoms they will be exercise intolerance, delay in growth…
For the diagnosis, and as in the two pathologies mentioned above, the veterinarian will begin with the auscultation, and as always will complete the diagnostic studies with electrocardiograms, X-rays, echocardiograms…
Once the problem is confirmed, the treatment to be established will not be pharmacological, whose only capacity is to reduce certain symptoms associated with the problem. The treatment of choice is surgery.
Surgical treatment is only applied in seriously ill animals and among the different surgical possibilities the most used is balloon valvuloplasty, which consists of the introduction of a catheter with an inflatable balloon at its end; the catheter is introduced through the jugular vein and is made to reach the area of stenosis; Once in position, the balloon is inflated to cause dilation of the obstructed area.
Patients considered mild will be able to lead a normal life without treatment; Those who are diagnosed with severe stenosis and who are not treated usually die suddenly before the age of three.