Heart Disease

Also very common in the St.Bernard world.

The signs of heart failure include the following:


* Lack of energy.
* Irregular and rapid breathing.
* Lack of appetite and weight loss.
* Coughing.
* Weakness.
* Fainting.
* Abdominal Swelling


Although the signs of heart disease may appear mild at first, and may be mistaken for signs

 of aging, heart failure is a serious, progressive problem and can be life-threatening. Not all

signs may be present at the same time. Some signs may also be cause by other serious

conditions. There are two types of heart disease: congenital and acquired. Congenital heart

disease is present at birth and is rare. Acquired heart disease develops over time, usually

beginning during middle-age and affective many older dogs


The second most common kind of acquired canine heart disease, Dilated Cardiomyopathy

(DCM). It’s an accquired disease in which the heart muscle becomes dysfunctional over

time. Defective transport of calcium ions within the heart muscle diminishes the cells’

ability to contract. The heart muscle becomes thin and flabby. Quietly, over a period of

several months, the thinning worsens, the heart chambers become dilated (enlarged), and

the electrical timing of the heart malfunctions and affected dogs begin to have visible

trouble. Before long, the problems cascade into full-blown congestive heart failure and

 then death.

 Over the usual one- to two-year course of the disease, the heart deteriorates from a

muscular, automated, fine-tuned pump to a bag of overstretched elastic with misfiring

electronics. Both CVD and DCM result in the same serious condition which is called heart


Regular examinations by your veterinarian are very important for early detection of hear

disease and management of heart failure. Treatment consists of medications aimed at

improving cardiac function, decreasing the heart’s workload and controlling arrhythmias,

if present. Prognosis depends on severity, rate of progression and response to treatment.


Heart failure often can be controlled by medication (diuretics, ACE inhibitors, digoxin).

The use of diuretics aims to reduce retained fluids, thereby easing the load the heart must

 pump, digoxin helps the heart muscles contract more vigorously and ACE inhibitors reduce

 the resistance in peripheral blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily.

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