Preventing heart disease in chihuahuas
How common is heart disease in chihuahuas?
Heart disease in chihuahuas is common, they can suffer from a condition called mitral valve disease, also known as chronic valvular disease. This can affect several small dog breeds like dachshunds and toy poodles.
There is a further increase in this disease amongst dogs that have been deliberately bred to be miniature sometimes referred to as teacups. Read more about teacups health here.
Mitral valve disease is when the valve that separates the left ventricle of the heart from the left atrium starts to degenerate and allows blood to leak back into the left atrium.
Larger dogs may suffer with dilated cardiomyopathy, this disease weakens the heart and makes it less efficient at pumping blood around the body. Because it’s working harder than normal it will make the heart larger.
The first sign that your chihuahua has a heart condition could be a tell-tale murmur, a vet would be able to pick up the irregular heartbeat during a routine exam. If your chihuahua was going in for any kind of surgery your vet is likely to check their heart before deciding if he can have a GA (general anaesthetic)
Heart disease can eventually lead to heart failure which is when the heart finds it difficult to meet the bodies demands.
These symptoms could include:
Fatigue /fainting or collapse
Rapid panting/breathing after exercise or play.
Weight loss or gain
Swelling of the abdomen
Blueness of the gums.
What causes heart disease in chihuahuas
Heart disease can be something your chihuahua is born with (congenital), or it could be something that develops over time.
According the Healthy Pets Mercola there is now a blood test your vet can do to see if your dog is at risk of developing heart disease.
The test is called a proBNP test. BNP = B-type Natriuretic Peptide.
The proBNP is a blood test that measures how much peptide hormone, released by the heart, is in circulation in your pet’s body. This hormone is only released when the heart is pushed beyond its capacity.
There is no actual cure for heart disease in chihuahuas, but there are medications that can slow its progress. If your chihuahua is diagnosed with this condition, he will be carefully monitored by your vet. You may be sent to see a specialist. With proper monitoring your chihuahua can still have a long, happy life. You may just need to make some changes to your lifestyle.
How to stop heart disease developing
Like any long-term condition prevention is always better than cure. Obviously, if your chihuahua has been born with a heart murmur it can’t be helped and must be managed but there are steps you can take to prevent heart disease developing in the first place.
Keep your chihuahua at a healthy weight. If your chihuahua is a bit tubby then plan to reduce his weight slowly. Read what to do if your chihuahua is overweight here.
Make sure your chihuahua has a healthy diet that has a variety of fresh veg, proteins and healthy fats. Avoid dry food if you can as it contains a lot or carbohydrates that turn into sugar. Here is some more info about carbohydrates and dog food.
Get plenty of exercise. Chihuahuas need a good run and plenty of exercise, a young male chihuahua could easily need two good walks a day. It also affects their behaviour if they are under exercised. Read should I let my chihuahua off lead.
Avoid smoking or vaping around your dog. Like people, dogs can be affected by second hand smoking.
Keep their teeth clean. There is a clear statistical link between tooth decay and heart disease in dogs. Chihuahuas are prone to tooth decay because their teeth are small and close together and because their temperament doesn’t always make teeth cleaning easy. If you have a puppy introduce teeth cleaning straight away so they are used to it. Read 9 things to do with your puppy from the off.
Get help with chihuahua behaviour
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