By heart cough in dogs, we mean a cough that occurs as a symptom of a dog’s heart disease. Heart cough itself is therefore a warning sign of a possible illness in your four-legged friend.
Causes of Heart Cough in Dogs
Heart cough in dogs is always an advanced heart problem. The cough is a sign that the heart can no longer do its job. Why does heart cough always indicate an advanced disease? Usually, the heart can compensate for the weakness for a certain period of time. For example with a faster pulse or other pressure ratios.
However, as the disease progresses, there is insufficient blood flow to organs and tissues. The ailing heart does not empty completely between the pumps, which creates a backlog of blood in the vessels. Due to different pressure conditions, fluid now escapes from the blood vessels and collects in the lungs (pulmonary edema) or in the chest (thoracic effusion). This in turn leads to heart cough. If a heart cough occurs, there is decompensated cardiac insufficiency – the heart cannot compensate for the lack of performance. Heart cough can be caused by various diseases. Here are some examples:
Heart cough in mitral regurgitation
Mitral valve regurgitation is the cause of heart cough in three-quarters of all dogs with heart disease. This causes the mitral valve to become “leaky”. It lies between the left atrium and the left ventricle. When the heart muscle contracts, if the mitral valve is leaky, blood flows back into the atrium, which permanently overloads the heart. Smaller breeds such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, and Miniature Schnauzers are often affected.
Heart cough due to aortic stenosis
With aortic stenosis, the aortic valves are narrowed so that the blood cannot flow out of the left main chamber properly. Depending on the exact location of the constriction, experts differentiate between different forms. Subvalvular aortic stenosis (also: subaortic stenosis) is one of the most common congenital heart diseases in dogs. The following breeds have a genetic predisposition to this heart disease: Boxer, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Newfoundland dog.
Heart cough due to dilated cardiomyopathy
Large breed dogs such as Newfoundland dogs, St. Bernard dogs, and Irish wolfhounds, in particular, are prone to hereditary primary dilated cardiomyopathy. In cardiomyopathies, the heart enlarges and the heartbeat becomes weaker. The disease can also be acquired. Then it occurs as secondary dilated cardiomyopathy, for example as a result of hypothyroidism in dogs or due to side effects of certain medications. Doberman cardiomyopathy and boxer cardiomyopathy have a special course.
Heart cough with persistent ductus arteriosus botalli (PDA)
The PDA is a common congenital heart disease in dogs. The reason for this is a wrong connection between the main artery and the pulmonary artery. As a result, the lungs are supplied with too much blood and the heart is overloaded. Even puppies can show symptoms such as heart cough. The wrong connection can be closed with an operation that is now possible using a catheter. Affected dogs can then have a normal life expectancy. Breeds prone to PDA are Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Maltese, and Bobtails.
Symptoms: Heart Cough in Dogs
Not every cough in dogs is a heart cough. With older dogs, you should be more clairaudient. But depending on the disease, even young dogs can suffer from heart cough. Heart cough occurs more than average during exertion or after lying down for a long time, as well as during sleep. As a rule, it is not the only symptom of advanced heart failure, but occurs together with one or more other symptoms:
- Inefficiency, the dog gets tired more quickly;
- Increased breathing rate / more panting;
- Loss of appetite;
- Passed out from arrhythmia;
- The dog can hardly be motivated to play games and the like;
- Pale mucous membranes.
Heart Cough and Diagnosis at the Veterinarian
Do you suspect your dog is coughing because he has a heart problem? Then you should see the vet as soon as possible. A first step in suspecting a dog’s heart disease is to listen carefully with a stethoscope (auscultation). This allows the vet to examine the heartbeat and, in the case of some heart diseases, identify any heart murmurs. He can also listen to the lungs and thus receive information about pulmonary edema. The veterinarian will also take a closer look at the mucous membranes. Other tests, such as an X-ray of the lungs and an ultrasound of the heart, usually follow. Depending on the heart condition, blood tests or an EKG of the dog may be necessary. It makes sense to consult a veterinarian who specializes in cardiology about diagnosis and therapy. Professionals include the members of the Collegium Cardiologicum.
Treat and Relieve Heart Cough in Dogs
Since heart cough occurs in dogs as a result of too much fluid in the chest and lungs, drainage medication, so-called diuretics, is required. A well-known active ingredient that has proven itself in veterinary medicine is furosemide. The vet will dose as low as possible but as high as necessary. In severe cases, a puncture of the lungs and abdominal cavity may be required to drain fluids. In addition, the underlying heart disease must be treated. For example, antihypertensive agents that relieve the heart and pills that regulate the heart rhythm are used here. For most heart diseases, the medication must be given for life. Sometimes surgery can be the best therapy possible and cure the dog. Important: If you have heart disease, you should never rely on home remedies for dog coughs! If there is water in the lungs again and again and the four-legged friend suffers from shortness of breath, euthanasia may be the only remaining option.
Preventing Heart Cough in Dogs
Heart cough in dogs can be prevented by preventing heart disease. Since one in five heart conditions is congenital, it’s important to only buy endangered breed puppies from responsible breeders. If you already have heart disease, you should regularly see your four-legged friend to the vet. Keep an eye on his condition and do not overwhelm him. Make sure to take care of your four-legged friend with a heart condition in order to prevent heart coughing in dogs. Here are some tips:
- Avoid being overweight with your four-legged friend.
- Make sure your dog moves moderately without overwhelming him.
- Protect your dog with heart disease from stress.
- Protect dogs with heart disease from the heat.