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  • Writer's pictureSacha Packer

Heart Disease In Dogs - Things you can do to help prevent it in your dog

Heart Disease is a devastating disease, families can lose their dogs to this disease well before their time due to genetic & environmental factors. There are several genetic diseases in dogs that can result in heart disease, including:

  1. Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): This is a condition in which the heart becomes enlarged and weakened, which can lead to heart failure. DCM is often inherited in certain breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, and Great Danes.

  2. Mitral Valve Disease: This is a condition in which the mitral valve, which controls blood flow between the heart's chambers, begins to deteriorate. This can lead to blood backing up in the heart and lungs, which can result in heart failure. Mitral Valve Disease is common in small breeds, such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

  3. Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC): This is a condition in which the heart's muscle tissue is replaced with fatty and fibrous tissue, which can cause abnormal heart rhythms and weaken the heart's ability to pump blood. ARVC is often seen in Boxers and other breeds.

  4. Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS): This is a condition in which a narrowing of the aorta, the main artery leaving the heart, can cause the heart to work harder to pump blood, leading to heart failure. SAS is commonly seen in Newfoundlands, Golden Retrievers, and Rottweilers.

  5. Aortic Stenosis: This is a condition in which the heart's aortic valve does not open properly, which can cause the heart to work harder to pump blood. Aortic Stenosis is often seen in Boxers, Newfoundlands, and Golden Retrievers.

These disease are not only restricted to the above mentioned breeds but they are considered more prone. Cross breed dogs can also at risk because they carry the genes of the purebred dogs that came before them in their bloodline. Sadly, there are not genetic tests for all heart diseases but responsible breeders can have their breeding dogs screened prior to breeding and then annually if appropriate to understand what is in their blood lines and to breed responsibly.

Whilst the environment turns on and off genetic switches, it is a complex discussion and we do not know with enough confidence which environment triggers specifically turn on and off genetic expression for different diseases. In saying this, we do know that nutrition can play a role in preventing the development of genetic diseases in humans in several ways. Firstly, a balanced and healthy diet can help maintain optimal health and prevent the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. These chronic diseases are often linked to genetic predispositions, and a healthy diet can help mitigate their risk.

Secondly, certain nutrients and compounds in food can help support the body's natural defense mechanisms and repair processes, helping to prevent or slow down the progression of genetic diseases. For example, antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables can help protect against DNA damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to the development of cancer and other genetic diseases.

Finally, emerging research suggests that the gut microbiome, which is influenced by diet, plays a role in modulating genetic expression and preventing the development of certain diseases. A diet high in fiber and diverse in plant-based foods can help promote a healthy microbiome, which may help prevent the development of genetic diseases.

It's important to note that while nutrition can play a role in preventing genetic diseases, it is not a guaranteed method of prevention, as genetics also play a significant role in the development of many diseases.

You can help prevent heart disease A study[1] published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that overweight or obese dogs were at a higher risk for developing heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight in dogs is important for their overall health and wellbeing. Obesity has also been linked to increased expression of genes involved in inflammation, which can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. In addition, obesity can also affect the expression of genes involved in metabolism, which can lead to insulin resistance and other metabolic disorders.

Is your dog overweight? According to a study[2] conducted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in 2019, it was estimated that around 41% of dogs in Australia were overweight or obese. This study was based on data collected from veterinary clinics across Australia. Click here to learn if your dog is overweight

That's pretty scary! I believe this to be because of a number of factors:

  • Pet parents have normalised feeding ultra processed high carbohydrate diets to their dogs instead of what we used to feed dogs i.e. meat, left overs, bones etc.

  • Pet parents feed their dogs as per the guideline on the food packaging even if that amount of food causes their dog to become overweight.

  • Pet parents do not realise how overweight their dogs are and because this happens incrementally, they simply get used to it.

  • Many Vets no longer have the overweight discussion with pet parents because many pet parents become offended when told their dog is overweight.

  • Strangely some pet parents find their overweight dog comical and make jokes about them vs understanding that they're literally killing their dog with kindness.

  • Some pet parents, often spurred by their cultural norms, express and share love through food.

  • Treats are often given for no reason i.e. not given for reward of behaviour.

Grab our free, no obligation weight loss guide here.

Why your dogs dental health matters Dental health can be related to heart disease in dogs in a number of ways. Poor dental hygiene can lead to the accumulation of bacteria in the mouth, which can then spread to other parts of the body, including the heart. This can lead to a condition known as infective endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart's inner lining.

In addition, dental disease can also cause inflammation in the mouth, which can trigger an inflammatory response throughout the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of health problems, including heart disease.

Furthermore, bacteria from the mouth can also enter the bloodstream and cause damage to the heart valves, which can lead to valve disease. This can result in a condition known as mitral valve disease, which is a common form of heart disease in dogs.

Therefore, it is important for pet owners to pay attention to their dog's dental health and use a variety of methods to keep their dogs teeth clean, see 5 ways to clean your dogs teeth here.

--- References: [1] Stern, J. A., et al. "Association between body condition and survival in dogs with acquired heart disease." Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 35.5 (2021): 2249-2255.

[2] Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). (2019). RSPCA Australia National Statistics 2019. Retrieved from

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