Arrhythmia (Irregular Heart Beat) In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Arrhythmias in dogs are abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart, which can include the speed, strength, or regularity of heart beats. This is caused by unusual electrical activity in dogs’ heart muscles, which can result from congenital issues present at birth, injuries, infections, stress, and many other possible factors. Arrhythmia is fairly common in dogs and isn’t always something to worry about. Many dogs live completely normal lives without showing any symptoms or health issues related to the arrhythmia; however, irregular heart beats are sometimes a sign of serious health concerns. If your dog is showing signs of having an arrhythmia, it is important for a veterinarian to diagnose any possible health conditions that might be present and begin treatment. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for arrhythmias in dogs.

Symptoms Of Arrhythmia In Dogs

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The main symptom of arrhythmia in dogs is irregularities in the heart beat, which you may notice when you check your dog’s pulse or a veterinarian might find during a routine exam. The heart may be beating too fast or too slow, the beats may not be strong enough, the beats may have an irregular rhythm or skip beats from time to time, or the arrhythmia may include multiple abnormalities.

Outward symptoms of arrhythmia in dogs are relatively uncommon in dogs and are usually the result of an underlying condition if they appear at all. Some uncommon symptoms include weakness, especially if the heart is beating too slow, or loss of consciousness.

Causes Of Arrhythmia In Dogs

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Arrhythmias in dogs may be caused by a number of conditions, though sometimes these are fairly harmless and just require monitoring, diet management, and staying in shape. Irregular heart beats can, however, be a sign of serious conditions, too. Arrhythmias can affect any dog, though brachycephalic dogs–dogs with shorter snouts–seem to be predisposed to the condition. These breeds include Boxers, Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, Pugs, Shar-Peis, and Shih Tzus. Here are several possible causes of arrhythmias in dogs.

  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Congenital heart abnormalities (present from birth)
  • Injuries
  • Infections
  • Environmental stress
  • Heart disease
  • Diseases that affect the vagus nerves
  • Cerebral disorders
  • Conditions that cause pressure within the skull

Treatments For Arrhythmia In Dogs

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Treatment for arrhythmias in dogs depends on the severity of the condition and the underlying causes. Some dogs have arrhythmias that don’t require treatment at all, as they don’t pose any health risk. Others can be life threatening or indicate the presence of heart disease. A veterinarian will be able to perform an examination and run tests to determine whether the abnormal heart beat is problematic and requires treatment or not.

There are some medications that may be used to treat arrhythmias in dogs. These include digoxin and atropine, among others. In some cases, there are surgical options, like catheter ablation, a procedure where tissue that causes the arrhythmia is destroyed. Another procedure involves placing a pacemaker to regulate a severe arrhythmia. If your dog has an arrhythmia, your veterinarian will be able to tell you which treatment options are available for you to consider.

Has your dog ever had an arrhythmia? What was the cause? Let us know in the comments below!