If bacteria enter the bloodstream, it can settle on the heart valves. The valves get infected and swollen. This irreversible damage leads to blood clots, heart murmurs, and eventually heart failure. It is potentially fatal.
There are a few possible causes of endocarditis, including:
- Procedures that allow bacteria into the bloodstream (like dental work or IV)
- Bacterial infections anywhere in the body: mouth, bones, uterus, kidney, intestines, skin
- Drugs that suppress the immune system
- Bite wounds
Common signs of endocarditis are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
In order to properly diagnose your dog with endocarditis, your veterinarian may perform the following:
- Review of medical history
- Physical exam
- Blood and urine tests
- Chest x-rays
- Ultrasound of the heart
- ECG and EKG (tests the heart's electrical activity)
Your veterinarian may advise the following treatments:
- Drugs to control abnormal heart rhythm
- Drugs to treat heart failure
- Drugs to treat shock
Prevention is crucial because endocarditis causes irreversible damage.
The best prevention is oral care by your veterinarian (cleaning, polishing) and at home (brushing and rinsing).
Prognosis depends on the severity of the infection and the valve affected.
If the aortic valve (the valve that prevents blood from flowing from the aorta back into the heart) is infected, the prognosis is poor.
If the mitral valve (the valve that prevents blood from flowing from the lower left chamber back into the upper left chamber) is infected, the prognosis is better.
However, the damage done already is irreversible.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM