What Breeds of Dogs Are Prone to Heart Disease?

Like humans, dogs have four-chambered hearts with a general structure also similar to that of humans. Some breeds are more prone to heart disease than others, but any dog can get this condition. There is some recent evidence that diet may be a factor in the development of canine heart disease. Specifically, this refers to a dietary deficiency of a critical amino acid called taurine. Amino acids are the building blocks of the proteins that form and repair tissues and operate cell processes. Felines must get taurine from food because their bodies cannot manufacture it. Dogs’ bodies can manufacture taurine, but only if there is a sufficient amount of two other dietary amino acids in the dog’s food.

cavalier king charles spanniel




About 75 percent of all dogs with heart disease have some kind of valvular problem. Like humans, dogs have four heart valves that keep blood flowing in the right direction. Small to medium size dogs are more prone to this type of heart disease than bigger ones, and males are more commonly affected than females. The valves most commonly involved are the mitral and the tricuspid. The range of severity and disability can be quite varied, but the condition tends to be progressive, worsening as the dog ages. Symptoms can include fainting, lethargy, exercise intolerance, elevated blood pressure, and cough. A malfunctioning heart valve often produces a particular sound that can be heard through a stethoscope. It’s called a murmur.

happy boxer dog

The next most common canine heart disease is DCM or dilated cardiomyopathy. Medium to large breeds is the most commonly affected. In DCM the heart muscle weakens, and the dog’s body tries to compensate by enlarging the heart. However, dogs with DCM have hearts that are failing to effectively pump blood throughout the body. Symptoms may include panting, cough, exercise intolerance, loss of appetite, reluctance to lay down and inability to rest comfortably, and an enlarged abdomen. Heart disease in dogs is often treatable but not curable.

great dane

Heart failure from heart valve disease is one of the most common causes of death among older small dogs like:

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Maltese
  • Chihuahua
  • Toy poodle
Some dog breeds prone to DCM:

  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Boxer
  • Doberman
  • Great Dane
Other breeds at high risk for heart disease:

  • Dalmatian
  • Saint Bernard
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • English Bulldog
  • Afghan Hound
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