Diagnosing a weak heart in dogs…
Q: I have a seven-year-old Doberman male dog. It was a very active and energetic pet, but of late it has stared showing signs of lethargy and coughs if made to run or do exercise. Can it be a sign of a heart disease as I have come to know that this breed is prone to it? What are the symptoms of an enlarged/weak heart and is it life threatening? Please advice. Suman Raj Singh
It is not easy to diagnose a heart disease in dogs no matter what the age. Although it’s more expected in elderly dogs, it is not an immediate death sentence and there are alternatives for treating dogs with heart disease. Prognosis really depends on how quickly you get your dog to the vet and an official diagnosis is made. As for the breed more prone to heart ailments, while genetics certainly play a role, there are several other factors that are major contributors to the disease including lack of exercise since puppyhood, diet and obesity. Thus, heart disease can be congenital, meaning the dog was born with it and most likely genetic, or acquired, that is affecting middle age to senior dogs and the disease is developed over time. Unfortunately, symptoms appear when the heart actually starts to fail. Common signs that a dog may be in mild heart failure stage include: Weight loss, no appetite, vomiting, lethargic, weak coughing (noticeable at night) and difficulty in breathing. Symptoms that a dog is in severe heart failure stage include: Diarrhea, loss of energy, edema (build up of fluid in the body tissues/cavity), fainting, swollen abdomen (ascites) and limbs, poor circulation (tongue and gum’s are blue in colour), depression, difficulty in breathing at all times, even when resting, excessive thirst and urination, exercise intolerance (can be a first sign of heart failure – fluid builds up in the lungs) and an increased heart rate & a weak pulse.
Q: I have a Spitz female dog that is two years old. Of late I have started noticing bare, inflamed, red areas on her skin that she keeps scratching and licking. These are mostly near her left ear, chest, and now spreading to her paws and the hip region. I tried ‘over the counter’ remedies but she licks away the medicine. What is wrong with her and how should I treat her, please advice? Ashutosh Sharma
Your pet seems to be suffering from acute dermatitis, or a bacterial skin infection, also known as hot spots. These can be quite painful and grow at an alarming rate within a short period of time because dogs tend to lick, chew and scratch the affected areas, further irritating the skin. They can be caused by allergic reactions, insect, mite or flea bites, poor grooming, underlying ear or skin infections and constant licking and chewing prompted by stress or boredom. You should visit your vet so that proper treatment is started without further delay. Treating hot spots may involve shaving and cleaning the irritated area, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or topical medications, depending on how bad the hot spots are, and how much pain your pet is in. He may also recommend the use of an Elizabethan collar around your dog's neck to keep her from biting and licking the lesions.
Q: My three-year-old Labrador has started vomiting, almost daily at least once. There is no behavioral change in him though and he eats his meals twice a day with enthusiasm. What could be wrong with him? Hemant Kumar
A dog may vomit simply because he’s eaten something disagreeable or gobbled down too much food, too fast. But vomiting can also indicate something far more serious-your dog may have swallowed a toxic substance, or may be suffering from a condition that requires immediate medical attention. Vomiting can also be associated with gastrointestinal and systemic disorders that should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Vomiting that occurs sporadically or irregularly over a longer period of time can be due to stomach or intestinal inflammation, severe constipation, cancer, kidney dysfunction, liver disease or systemic illness. An occasional, isolated bout of vomiting may not be of concern. However, frequent or chronic vomiting can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as colitis, intestinal obstruction or parvovirus. If your dog’s vomiting is not an isolated incident, please take him to the vet right away for a complete examination and diagnostic testing. The causes of vomiting are so varied that sometimes obtaining a diagnosis can be difficult, so it’s important to give your veterinarian as much information as possible and indicate if other signs are also occurring, like the frequency of vomiting: If your dog vomits once and proceeds to eat regularly and have a normal bowel movement, the vomiting was most likely an isolated incident. But if he suffers from diarrhoea, dehydration, lethargy, if there is blood in vomit, weight loss, change in appetite, increase or decrease in thirst or urination, or he vomits more than once during the course of a day, or if vomiting persists past one day.