Health problems in dogs: Blood and circulation
Heart defects are more common in dogs than any other pet. Most common is damage to the heart valves, which is common in small dogs of middle age and older. Congenital heart defects and heart attacks are rarer. A variety of medications developed for human heart problems can successfully delay the increasing consequences of heart failure.
Heart valve problems in dogs
Diseases of the heart valves occur when the valves don’t close properly, causing blood to flow back to the lungs or liver (congestion). The first symptoms of heart failure – reduced resistance to exercise – are often confused with natural signs of aging. A dry muceless cough develops fairly quickly, in the beginning after movement and at night. Eventually, the dog will lose weight, breathe faster, and develop a swollen stomach. Dogs suffering from congestive heart failure are treated with ACE inhibitors such as enalapril and diuretics such as frusemide are used to get rid of excess fluid.
Heart muscle dilation in dogs
Heart muscle diseases often affect dogs under seven years of age and have to do with dilation or enlargement of the atrium and thinning of the heart muscle, which leads to congestive heart failure. It often occurs with medium and big dogs, especially Dobermans, and affects more males than females. Affected dogs become lean, are listless and tired quickly from normal exercise. As the disease progresses, fluid accumulates in the lungs and abdomen. They are being treated for congestive heart failure.
Heartworms in dogs
Heartworms, Dirofilaria immitis, spread through mosquito bites and grow in the heart chambers, causing a lack of energy, a moist cough and heart failure. This parasite is a problem in America, from the Gulf coast and East coast of North America, mainly lowlands, to Quebec and Ontario. In Europe it is mainly found around the Mediterranean.
Your vet will advise you on effective heartworm prevention and treatment during mosquito season in those parts of the world where heartworms appearance.
Anemia in dogs
Anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells due to a lack of production or loss, or due to their destruction. Anemia causes lethargy and weakness and can be caused by external bleeding as well as internal bleeding from ulcers, tumors, parasites and intestinal disease. Some medications and rat poison also cause anemia, and severe flea infestation can cause anemia in puppies. Vets usually diagnose anemia under the heading IMHA (immune mediated haemolytic aneamia). In this condition, the immune system destroys its own red blood cells.
Treatment focuses on the cause of the blood loss. Blood transfusion is used if necessary. The prognosis for IMHA is less promising. Even with rapid diagnosis and treatment with high doses of corticosteroids and other immune suppressants, fatal backlashes are frustratingly common.