Pet Coughing Part 2: Cardiac Causes

Pet coughing can be a feature of heart disease and congestive heart failure, especially in dogs.  In this post we will look at what types of heart disease can cause your dogs to cough.

Congestive Heart Failure

In congestive heart failure in dogs(CHF), fluid accumulates in the lungs, and the body’s response to this is to try and cough it out.  The result is a soft cough that can occur at any time.  The heart disease can be congenital or acquired and is often accompanied by other signs, such as lethargy, exercise intolerance and labored respiration.  On examination, the vet may detect other signs, such as abnormal heart sounds, crackly lung sounds, pale or bluish mucus membranes and a weak pulse. 

Acquired heart disease is usually degenerative and occurs most often in middle-aged to older animals.  The most common condition in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle becomes too thickened to function well.  Cats however are experts at hiding illness and coughing may not be a feature of this disease.  In dogs, dilated cardiomyopathym, which is most common in larger breeds, as well as mitral valve degeneration, which is more common in smaller breeds, are the two main culprits that cause CHF and coughing.

Infectious Heart Conditions

Heartworm disease is the most common form of infectious heart disease.  Adult worms live in the heart and cause irreversible damage to the heart, and eventually heart failure.  Luckily, heartworm prevention is very effective and so this disease is easily prevented. 

In some cases, an infection elsewhere in the body can translocate to the heart via the bloodstream.  The result may be endocarditis, an inflammatory condition of the valves which can lead to CHF, and coughing is often a feature of this disease.

Diagnosis of heart disease involves physical examination and tests such as X-rays of the chest, blood tests, an ultrasound of the heart and ECG.  If your pet is exhibiting these signs, it is important to have them investigated quickly as fatal heart failure can occur if untreated.

Click here here to see Pet Coughing Part 1: Respiratory Causes.

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