What are enlarged hearts in little dogs?


Quick Answer

Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs refers to a disease characterized by an enlarged heart that fails to function correctly, according to petMD. Both the upper and lower chambers become enlarged to differing degrees, affecting the ability of the heart to pump blood to the lungs. The lack of a properly functioning heart contributes to fluid buildup in the lungs and eventually to congestive heart failure.

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Full Answer

Although the underlying cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is unknown, certain breeds are more susceptible than others, including Great Danes and Cocker Spaniels, says petMD. Risk increases as the dog ages. The most obvious symptoms are lethargy, a lack of appetite, shortness of breath, coughing and abdominal distension. A thorough physical exam may also reveal less evident symptoms, such as premature contractions within and above the ventricles that herald the disease's development. If the disease has progressed enough and fluid has already built up in the dog's lungs, they may emit a crackling noise. When a dog is officially diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, veterinarians discuss with owners the expected lifespan. While few dogs require long-term hospitalization, most are given anywhere between six and 24 months to live. Veterinarians may prescribe medication to help the heart pump blood.

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