How To Care For A Dog With An Enlarged Heart? Medical Treatments

Each dog in a family is an important member. As a dog owner, you’re a parent or friend of the pet. Your dog needs to be cared about and loved. However, you will have to face some problems while keeping a dog. Its health may worsen due to diseases. One of them is the enlarged heart. The enlarged heart can bring your dog’s health to its knees. It’s necessary to know how to care for a dog with an enlarged heart.

What Is The Enlarged Heart?

The enlarged heart is commonly referred to as canine dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. 

The cardiac muscle walls gradually get weak and fail to pump blood properly and contract efficiently. Circulation is affected. The heart and blood vessels have to suffer from increasing pressure.  The heart has to stretch.

x-rays of an enlarged heart in dogs
By Kayla Saeler‎: “10 year old Chihuahua with an enlarged heart.”

How To Care For A Dog With An Enlarged Heart?  


The early phase of this disease is quite long. It can last for many months or years. In this phase, you don’t see clear signs and the dog’s health seems to be good. Then, signs become obvious in the short duration, proving that the disease has been growing so fast. 

You have to notice symptoms to give your dog a prompt treatment.

  • Fainting, loss of consciousness
  • Trouble in breathing, rapid and excessive breathing, labored breathing
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty in move 
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Lack of appetite
  • Heart murmur
  • Arrhythmia
  • Vomiting
  • Distended abdomen
  • Buildup of fluid in the lungs 
  • Sudden collapse or death 

Risks of Enlarged Heart

1. Heart Murmur & Arrhythmias

The heart’s valves don’t close tightly due to enlarged muscles; therefore, blood flows backward and creates a murmur. The electrical impulses of the heart don’t work, as usual, having a bad influence on the heartbeat, then the dog gets arrhythmias. Enlarged heart muscles affect badly impulses. 

2. Distended Abdomen

The muscles on the right side of the heart get bigger and don’t work properly. They make fluid build up in the abdomen. This accumulation puts pressure on the diaphragm and leads to trouble breathing. The dog can eat less or vomit, which leads to malnutrition and weight loss.

3. Fluid In The Lungs

Like a distended abdomen, fluid in the lungs accumulates in the lungs because the muscles on the left side of the heart get larger and don’t work well. This accumulation fills space in the lungs preventing the process of bringing oxygen into the bloodstream. The results are cough, fatigue, heavy breathing, fainting, bleeding lips or tongue, or even death. 

4. Heart Failure

As the heart’s muscles enlarge so much that they fail to meet the circulatory demands of the body, congestive heart failure will threaten the health and life of your pet.

You can take a radiograph of the dog’s chest to find if it gets an enlarged heart. To check muscle function, it needs an ultrasound. You should ask the vet to carry a thorough physical exam for your dog to know the status of the enlarged heart. The incidence of an enlarged heart in dogs increases with age and usually affects dogs that are 4-10 years old. Use radiograph technology to determine the disease as soon as possible. 

For different conditions of enlarged heart, the vet will prescribe medication to improve the heart contraction. The vet checks your dog regularly to spot changes and follow any progress. Activities like blood pressure measurements, biochemical tests, EKGs, and radiographs will be implemented.    

Unluckily, it’s often too late as the disease is found out and diagnosed. The dog has a few months to live. The vet can give you pieces of advice to help your dog to enjoy life for the rest of the days.   

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Causes of Enlarged Heart

Often though, your dog might have just been born with a heart defect that you were unable to detect.  Some breeds have a genetic susceptibility to enlarged heart, especially large breeds. You need to notice if you look after breeds including American Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatians, Boxers, English, Great Danes Cocker Spaniels. 

Other breeds having a predisposition to the disease are Labrador Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Springer Spaniels, Welsh Corgis, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Irish Wolfhounds, Newfoundland Retrievers, Scottish, Deerhounds, Tibetan Terriers.

Lack of nutrients like taurine and carnitine perhaps causes the enlarged heart in Boxers and Cocker Spaniels. Deficiencies in amino acids also contribute to the disease.

Other causes consist of immune-mediated abnormalities, toxicity, infections, genetic disorders, hypothyroidism, low thyroid, and myocarditis.


After your dog’s disease is diagnosed, you have to give it the proper treatment. Daily activities, habits, and diet need to be changed if necessary. The vet will help you to find the causes and give your pet treatments.

Some medicines are prescribed for the dog. ACE inhibitors contribute to preventing the progressive changes to the heart, which helps to stop heart failure. Your dog may need medications that improve heart contraction and heartbeat. 

Vasodilators enhance blood pumping. Diuretics will control the fluid buildup in the lungs. Drugs that dilate blood vessels are prescribed. 

Sadly, drugs have side effects including vomiting,  loss of appetite, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalances, stress, or kidney damage. You have to notice signs of side effects and take care of the furry friend. 

If the cause is a lack of taurine, your dog needs to change in its diet. You have to add supplements to its meals. For example, provide Omega-3 fatty acids that are in fish oil, add herbs like  hawthorn berry or cayenne, and supplements including D-ribose, arginine, ubiquinol, and acetyl L-carnitine

Oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids are carried out to cure Dogs suffering from respiratory distress. If the dog has fluid accumulation in the chest, the vet will use a needle to drain fluid. The vet can use Diuretics to solve fluid accumulation in the body.

Unfortunately, the enlarged heart cannot be cured, and treatments help to slow down the progression of the disease. Your pet often has 6 to 24 months to stay with you. 

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How to care for a dog with an enlarged heart? If your dog has an enlarged heart, you will need to look after it in a caring way, bring it to the vet to receive proper treatments and pieces of advice.  Make regular vet visits so that the vet diagnoses the disease as soon as possible. Your furry friend can avoid pain if you care about it enough.

1 thought on “How To Care For A Dog With An Enlarged Heart? Medical Treatments”

  1. It would be nice to know the dosing for size for the mentioned supplements. Or example Acetyl L Carnitine , omega 3, and CoQ10, are all readily available. I take all three but my 15 lb dog probably needs a different dose. Good luck getting anything preventative from your vet. They don’t make money til they are sick.
    Which ace inhibitors are best for dogs ?


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