Is there such a thing as a dog heart attack? Yes, heart attacks in dogs happen, although they are rare. When they do occur, they are dangerous. Dog heart attacks occur in all breeds and sizes. Despite their rarity, dog heart attacks are on the rise in the United States. 

A heart attack, also called myocardial infarction, is when the blood flow to the heart is blocked. Without adequate blood flow, tissues lose needed oxygen and nutrients and die. The team at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services can advise our readers what to look for when a dog is having a heart attack and the conditions that lead to it.

Symptoms of a Dog Heart Attack

A dog heart attack is probably the last thing you would consider when it comes to your pet. But, since heart attacks happen without much warning, it is important to know what signs accompany a heart attack.

  • Higher than normal temperature (over 103° Fahrenheit)
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Heart rate over 100 beats per minute in large dogs and 140 beats per minute in small breeds
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Immobility
  • Head tilt
  • Rigid posture
  • Seizure
  • Collapse

Heart failure in dogs, which is much more common, often results in weakness, fatigue, weight loss, depression, coughing, and trouble breathing. Many pets with the onset of heart disease are asymptomatic. 

There are several factors that contribute to a dog heart attack, such as a tumor surrounding the heart or blood vessels leading to the heart, blood clots, bacterial infection, atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries), and coronary artery disease. 

Diagnosis and Treatment of a Dog Heart Attack

If you think your dog is experiencing a heart attack or related emergency, contact us or your veterinary provider right away. Do your best to keep your pet calm and wrap them in a blanket for transport. Don’t attempt CPR on your dog unless you have been trained to do CPR on canines, as this can cause further damage. 

During the examination, your veterinarian will assess your dog, checking the pulse and looking for arrhythmias and other heart rhythm abnormalities. Diagnostic testing enables us to have a better understanding of how the heart is functioning as well as other underlying conditions that adversely affect the cardiovascular system.

Some tests that might be used to determine heart attack in dogs include: 

  • Electrocardiography 
  • Complete blood count and biochemistry
  • Thyroid function
  • Urinalysis
  • Echocardiography
  • X-ray

Treatment for heart attack in dogs first relies on emergency care, resuscitation, and stabilization. Then your pet will be given supportive care and possible blood thinners or other medications, depending on the cause of the heart attack. 

Some dogs with defective heart function or abnormalities may require a pacemaker. Many dogs can live a long, healthy life with heart disease, as long as they receive effective care and supportive treatments, as well changes to nutrition, exercise, and weight management.

Is My Dog Having a Dog Heart Attack?

If you suspect your dog has symptoms of cardiovascular distress, please contact us right away. A dog heart attack, while unusual, is quite serious. Trust your judgment if you think your furry loved one is having an emergency. 

For more information on heart attacks in dogs, please contact our team.