Aortic stenosis in dogs is a narrowing of the aortic valve of the heart, which is responsible for letting oxygen-rich blood flow out of the left ventricle to the aorta and the rest of the body. When this valve narrows, it puts pressure on the dog’s heart, which can cause the heart muscle cells to grow in size and the wall of the heart to thicken.
Narrowing can happen directly above, below, or at the aortic valve, though the symptoms and treatments are similar in each of these cases. Symptoms can range from completely non-existent to congestive heart failure and sudden death depending on the severity of the narrowing and the extent of blood flow obstruction.
Usually, aortic stenosis in dogs is a congenital condition present at birth, and it develops over the first few months of life. If you see the signs in your dog, talk to your veterinarian right away so they can form a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for aortic stenosis in dogs.
Symptoms Of Aortic Stenosis In Dogs
The symptoms of aortic stenosis in dogs can vary greatly in severity based on the extent of narrowing of the aortic valve. Some dogs show no symptoms at all, while others suffer serious heart problems or die suddenly.
Usually a vet will find the condition when they detect a heart murmur in a young dog during a normal physical exam or while investigating another unrelated condition.
Here are a few signs of aortic stenosis that may appear in dogs who show symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
- Abnormal lung sounds
- Heart murmor
- Weak pulse
- Exercise intolerance
- Stunted growth
- Syncope (fainting)
- Congestive heart failure
Causes Of Aortic Stenosis In Dogs
Most cases of aortic stenosis in dogs are congenital, meaning dogs are born with the condition.
Certain breeds are at higher risk for being born with aortic stenosis, including Boxers, Bouvier des Flandres, Bull Terriers, English Bulldogs, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, and Samoyeds.
Some cases are not congenital and are instead caused by a bacterial infection known as endocarditis. This condition is more common in dogs with compromised immune systems, those who suffer from a generalized infection, and dogs who have abnormal blood flow through the heart.
Treatments For Aortic Stenosis In Dogs
Treatment for aortic stenosis in dogs varies based on the severity of the condition. While open-heart surgery could theoretically cure the condition, vets don’t usually perform it. That’s because it’s risky and hasn’t been shown to improve life expectancy.
The aorta can be dilated with an expandable balloon via a catheter. However, this is not particularly effective for dogs with advanced forms of aortic stenosis.
Most of the time treatment focuses on managing the symptoms of the condition. Vets may prescribe medication to treat congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, and syncope. These medications can include beta blockers and calcium channel blockers.
Usually, physical activity needs to be restricted, as exertion can increase the risk of sudden death. Most dogs with heart conditions are prescribed a low-sodium diet.
Vets may also prescribe antibiotics, as the risk of bacterial infections of the heart increases in dogs with aortic stenosis.
While severe forms of the condition often prove fatal, dogs with mild forms of aortic stenosis can live full lives, so long as pet parents monitor them and stick to veterinary guidelines.
Do you keep up with regular vet checkups to find conditions like aortic stenosis early? How do you keep your dog’s heart healthy? Let us know in the comments below!