Dog’s Heart Takes A Lickin’ But Keeps On Tickin’



Just in time for Valentine’s Day, February is American Heart Month. In 2012, The Animal Medical Center’s spokes-cat was Sidney, who developed fainting episodes which led to the diagnosis of a heart muscle abnormality, a condition common in cats.

This year, we have a spokes-dog who does not want to be outdone by last year’s spokes-cat. This dog has not one, but two types of heart problems at the same time!

An accidental tumor

Chad is a rescued, older male dachshund. After he found a forever home, he needed some dental work. Because his regular veterinarian heard a heart murmur, an echocardiogram was ordered as part of the pre-dental evaluation. Echocardiograms evaluate the heart noninvasively using sound waves. The test showed Chad’s heart murmur was due to leaky valves. Leaky valves are the most common cause of a heart murmur in a dog.

In Chad’s case, the test surprisingly found a tumor near the base of the heart and he came to The Animal Medical Center in March of 2012 for further evaluation.

Magnetic resonance imaging

Heart tumors are quite uncommon; one study showed heart tumors occur in less than 0.2% of all dogs. The two most common types are often hard to distinguish using an echocardiogram. To image the heart, we use a special type of MRI. The MRI showed the tumor was located in the heart wall and could not be removed surgically. We started chemotherapy and between treatments, when he was feeling well, his teeth were cleaned. Chemotherapy finished in November 2012 and an echocardiogram showed the tumor was smaller.

Heart problem number two

In January 2013, Chad’s leaky valves worsened causing heart failure, a buildup of fluid in his lungs. The AMC’s Emergency Service treated him with diuretics (water pills), oxygen and other medications to decrease the fluid in his lungs. The Cardiology Service prescribed medications to keep his broken heart working and the fluid from building up again in his lungs. After two days in the ICU, his heart was ticking well and he went home to his anxiously waiting family.

Is your dog coughing? It might be heart failure. Our friends at the Washington State College of Veterinary Medicine have a nice list of the causes of coughing in dogs.

Still worried your dog might have heart failure? Review the clinical signs and see your veterinarian if you think your dog has heart failure.

2 Responses to Dog’s Heart Takes A Lickin’ But Keeps On Tickin’

  1. […] various soft tissues in the body. The MRI image you see on the right shows a tumor of the heart in a dog following administration of a contrast […]

  2. junefit says:

    I read the online article posted at I thought i would make one comment about another reason a dog or possibly cat may cough that was not given. I did not know which department to send my comment, so I decided to send to the education department.

    My small dog of 13 years old starting coughing sporadically, and otherwise was fine. I brought her for an X-ray and was told she had some small scars from bronchitis although she was never diagnosed with bronchitis, nor treated. She had had a few years prior, a lower respiratory infection treated with antibotics, which resolved.

    I also brought her to another veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis. I explained that she would briefly cough when I would pick her up.
    3 months within the second opinion, my dog became ill one morning vomiting her breakfast. She seemed fine otherwise. 2 hours later, she seemed weak so thinking the small vomit episode might have caused dehyration, I brought her to my vet again, and after another X-ray, I was told she had an enlarged liver pressing upon her diaphram and i think also the stomach,which is why she vomited undigested food. Within another hour I had to make the horrendous shocking decision to end her life because an ultrasound showed that it bursted a blood vessel and she had internal bleeding. The liver was enlarged due to either one large tumor or several smaller ones, which they could not detect based upon the location.

    My point is that she had been coughing sporadically for almost one year, not a serious sounding cough, but never the less, a cough especially when I would pick her up. The enlarged liver pressing upon as I mentioned the diaphram and stomach caused the coughing.

    I don’t know if the proper diagnosis of an enlarged liver sooner would have resulted in a different outcome, but this is another reason for coughing that should be made aware of.

    June M Lay M.S.

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