Although heart attacks, also known as cardiac arrests, are far rarer in dogs than in humans, they can still be very dangerous, and take the lives of thousands of our pets every year. Here is what you need to know if your dog has a heart attack:
Heart attack symptoms in dogs
Source: Youtube/Ron Pace
Like humans, dogs suffering from cardiac arrest can show several visible symptoms. Unfortunately, these can be very subtle and hard to spot. Because of this, it's incredibly important to know what to look out for. Common symptoms of a heart attack are:
- A fever over 39.4°C or 102.92°F
- A faster heart beat (more than 100 beats per minute for big dogs or more than 140 for small dogs)
- Irregular breathing, or heavy panting
- Rigid muscles
- Convulsions and fitting
- Not moving and acting confused
These are by far the most common signs of cardiac arrest, but this list isn't exhaustive. Watch out for unusual behavior in your dog and call a veterinarian if they are acting out of the ordinary.
What causes heart attacks in dogs?
Although dogs that are otherwise in perfect health can sometimes fall victim to heart attacks, the majority of cases are found in dogs suffering from pre-existing conditions such as:
- Bacterial infections
- Nephritis/Kidney disease
- Vasculitis (blood vessel swelling)
- Atherosclerosis (plaque building up in blood vessels)
All of these conditions have one thing in common; they can, directly or indirectly, stop or reduce blood flow into the heart. Overweight dogs are also more at risk.
What you should do if your dog goes into cardiac arrest
Source: Pets – The Nest
Some attacks are milder than others but it is crucial to get your pet to a veterinarian as quickly as you possibly can. Wrap them in a blanket to keep them calm on the journey. If you haven't been trained in CPR, it is advised that you don't try to perform it, as it can cause further damage if not done properly.
On the way to the vet's, do not try to give your pet any food or water, as they could choke. You can help keep them calm as you possibly can by speaking to them and touching them gemtly. It may help them feel safe and reassured in a situation where they don't know what is happening.
How should I care for my dog after a heart attack?
In some cases, regular follow-up appointments and lifelong medical care may be necessary to keep your pet healthy following cardiac arrest. Some dogs will have to be operated on if the heart attack was caused by a tumor or severe inflammation.
Your vet may also give your pet medication that you will have to give them at home. Follow your vet's advice for home treatment carefully as your dog will be quite delicate following
By acting quickly and calmly, you give your dog a better chance of surviving the ordeal with little damage. The majority of dogs who have suffered from cardiac arrest have recovered well and lived happy lives with their families for several years.
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