Canine Cardiac Arrhythmia

Canine cardiac arrhythmia occurs when your dog's heart can't beat with a steady and regular rhythm. There are several different types of canine cardiac arrhythmia, but they all occur due to irregularities in the transmission and generation of electrical impulses in the heart. Here's what you should know about canine cardiac arrhythmia.

Risk Factors for Cardiac Arrhythmia in Dogs

Some cardiac arrhythmias are minor and don't cause dogs to get sick. Others can lead to life threatening heart problems.

Dogs of all ages, breeds and genders are vulnerable to cardiac arrhythmia. Certain breeds of dog may be at higher risk than others for developing certain types of arrhythmia. Large breeds are prone to atrial fibrillation, a type of arrhythmia that causes an abnormally fast heart beat. Labrador retrievers are especially prone to supraventricular tachycardia, which also causes the heart to beat too fast, and so forth.

Symptoms of Cardiac Arrhythmia in Dogs

Dogs with cardiac arrhythmia may have an unusually fast, unusually slow, or irregular and erratic heart beat. They may experience labored breathing, loss of appetite and general weakness. They may even suffer from episodes of collapse.

Diagnosing Cardiac Arrhythmia in Dogs

Your vet will need a complete medical history and a thorough physical exam in order to diagnose the cause of your dog's cardiac arrhythmia. Blood tests, urinalysis and other lab work should be performed; a number of illnesses, such as hypothyroidism, can cause canine cardiac arrhythmia.

Your vet can verify the presence of cardiac arrhythmia, and determine its type, with the help of an EKG. Chest X-rays can tell your vet whether heart disease or damage to the heart muscle are present. A cardiac ultrasound can help your vet determine the extent of the damage to your dog's heart and how well your dog's heart is functioning.

Treating Cardiac Arrhythmia in Dogs

Treatment will depend on the cause of your dog's cardiac arrhythmia. If an underlying condition, such as hypothyroidism, has caused problems with your dog's heart, then that condition will require treatment. Resolving an underlying condition usually helps to resolve the cardiac arrhythmia.

Treatment will also vary depending on the type of cardiac arrhythmia your dog develops. Cardiac arrhythmias are categorized according to the part of the heart in which they originate. Some may require therapies including medication or electric shock treatment. Others may require no treatment at all.

See your vet immediately if your dog develops an irregular heart beat, or if his heart beat seems too fast or too slow. Cardiac arrhythmias can occur for a host of different reasons; while some cardiac arrhythmias are harmless and require no treatment, others can cause serious, life threatening complications.

If you think your dog might be at risk of developing cardiac arrhythmia, let your vet know. While cardiac arrhythmia usually can't be prevented altogether, you can increase your dog's chances of recovery by monitoring him closely for changes in heart beat or rate. The earlier your dog's cardiac arrhythmia is detected, the better his chances of recovery without permanent damage.