Aortic stenosis in dogs is a narrowing of the aortic valve of the heart, which is responsible for allowing oxygen-rich blood to 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 increase 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 for aortic stenosis 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 of aortic stenosis in your dog, consult your veterinarian right away so they can form a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Here is 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 experience no symptoms at all, while others suffer serious heart problems or die suddenly. Usually the condition is discovered when a veterinarian detects a heart murmur in a young dog during a normal physical examination or while investigating another unrelated condition. Here are a few signs of aortic stenosis that may appear in dogs that do 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 of aortic stenosis in dogs 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 that 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, it is usually not performed, as it is risky and has not been shown to improve life expectancy. The aorta can be dilated with an expandable balloon via a catheter, but 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. Medication may be prescribed 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. Veterinarians 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 are often fatal, dogs with mild forms of aortic stenosis can live full lives, so long as they are monitored and stick to veterinary guidelines.