If your dog has been diagnosed with artery inflammation, you may be wondering what that means for the health and longevity of your dog.
Inflammation can occur anywhere in a dog’s body. Organs, arteries, blood vessels, and joints are the main culprits.
In this post, we’ll be talking about arterial inflammation and its causes. Keep in mind that the topic isn’t exactly black and white. There are varying degrees of severity and the prognosis (life expectancy of your dog) will depend on a number of things including:
- Your dog’s age
- Any underlying conditions
- the stage of heart disease at the time of diagnosis
- the health of internal organs, etc.
Why Does My Dog Have Inflamed Arteries?
This question is like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg? A dog could have inflamed arteries that contribute to heart disease, or heart disease that contributes to inflamed arteries.
Problems like bacterial infections, allergic reactions to medications, or autoimmune disorders can trigger the immune system. That can trigger inflammation in the body. Prolonged inflammation in the arteries or vessels can compromise the health of the heart.
The opposite is also true. Your dog may have a heart condition that leads to inflammation of the arteries. The following are some of the more common conditions in dogs that can result in arterial or vascular inflammation.
This disorder of the heart muscle is typically diagnosed in middle-aged to senior dogs. It is the most commonly seen heart condition in dogs.
The condition prevents the heart muscle from contracting normally. Over time, this can cause fluid build-up in the organs, lungs, and tissues.
Although large dog breeds are more at risk of developing dilated cardiomyopathy, there are a few breeds that seem to escape this notion.
The exceptions to this rule include the following breeds:
- American Cocker Spaniels
- Springer Spaniels
- English Cocker Spaniels
Large Dog Breeds at Risk of Dilated Cardiomyopathy:
- Doberman Pinschers
- Great Danes
- German Shepherds
- Irish Wolfhounds
- Scottish Deerhounds
- Saint Bernards
- Labrador Retrievers
Clinical Signs of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs
Unfortunately, there are often no obvious clinical signs in the early stages of disease. Even when there are signs, they are often easily mistaken for something else.
As the disease worsens, you may notice:
- episodes of weakness
- difficulty breathing
- unwilling to move
- fluid in the chest
- fluid in the abdomen
Diagnosis of Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Physical examination, a complete history, and diagnostic testing can help diagnose dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. The veterinarian may need to rule out a variety of other possibilities before making the diagnosis.
Veterinarians may use ultrasonography to test for dilated cardiomyopathy. This gives the doctor a picture of the heart.
Electrocardiograms can sometimes show whether there is an arrhythmia or enlargement of the left atrium and ventricle.
Treatment of Dilated Cardiomyopathy
The goal of treatment is to reduce the congestion and fluid accumulation in the heart. To do this, diuretics may be prescribed.
In some dogs, a deficiency of certain amino acids (taurine, for example) or enzymes are part of the problem. In that case, the treatment involves addressing the deficiency through supplementation.
Veterinarians may suggest administration of fish oil to help reduce muscle and weight loss in your dog.
Heart murmurs develop when there is a disruption of blood flow from the heart. They are either systolic (happen when the heart contracts), diastolic murmurs (happen when the heart is relaxed between beats), or continuous meaning they happen during a regular heartbeat.
Classification is based on the timing of the murmur.
Heart murmurs are considered innocent, physiologic, or caused by structural problems of the heart. Structural heart problems can be congenital (born with a defective heart) or acquired, meaning it developed later in life.
Diagnosis of Heart Murmurs in Dogs
The veterinarian will be able to diagnose a heart murmur after listening to the heart sounds and rhythm using a stethoscope.
Treatment of Heart Murmurs
Instead of treating the heart murmur, the underlying condition that caused the murmur is treated. In some cases, the heart murmur may improve on its own. Prognosis depends on the severity of the condition and whether there are underlying conditions that need to be addressed.
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure isn’t a disease. It is the result of disease in which the heart no longer has the ability to contract.
In congestive heart failure, blood pools in the lungs or other organs which prevents them from working properly. The abnormal accumulation of fluid in the pericardial sac is called pericardial effusion or cardiac tamponade.
The two main causes of congestive heart failure in dogs include:
- Mitral Valve Insufficiency
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (see above)
Heart failure, however, occurs when there isn’t enough blood flow to supply the organs with enough oxygenated blood.
Right-Sided vs Left-Sided Congestive Heart Failure
Put simply, right-sided congestive heart failure makes it difficult for blood to return to the heart. When the heart contracts or pumps, instead of being pushed through the lungs for oxygenation, some of it leaks back into the right atrium.
Blood that winds up back in the right atrium ends up ends up congesting systemic circulation. Fluid will accumulate in the abdomen. If fluid pools there, it will affect how well the organs work. When an abdomen fills with fluid it is known as ascites.
Peripheral edema occurs when fluid leaks from veins into the limbs and causes swelling.
In left-sided CHF, the left-ventricle (the heart’s main pumping source), gradually weakens. When this happens, the heart cannot pump enough blood from the lungs, to the heart, and back through the body. It ends up having to work harder, making it even weaker.
Diagnosing CHF in Dogs
Tests used to detect congestive heart failure in dogs include chest x-rays, an electrocardiogram to measure the heart’s electrical activity, and an echocardiogram. The echocardiogram uses ultrasound to take a picture of the heart.
Treatment of CHF in Dogs
Treatment usually involved heart medication. The specific treatment regime is tailored to each individual dog.
Vasculitis in Dogs
Vasculitis is is an inflammation of the vascular wall of the blood vessels. It’s either diagnosed as a primary condition or secondary to an underlying heart problem. It’s not always easy to determine the cause of vasculitis in dogs.
It’s thought that more than 50% of reported cases have no known cause (idiopathic).
Cutaneous Vasculitis vs Systemic Vasculitis
Cutaneous vasculitis is the most commonly reported type in dogs. It affects the small blood vessels under the skin. Sometimes, the condition causes enough damage to the skin cells that it leads to cell death and necrosis.
In the early stages of cutaneous vasculitis, the dog may develop hives and blood blisters. After a while, the skin tissue becomes deprived of oxygen and the affected area will become black (necrotic – dead skin).
Ulceration of the skin may develop. This increases the risk of a serious, secondary bacterial infection.
Some cases of cutaneous vasculitis may cause:
- crusting and scaling of the skin
- painful skin lesions
- lesions on the paw pads, tip of the tail, ear pinna, nose
Systemic vasculitis has more generally broad systems. At the end of the day, clinical signs will depend on the organ(s) affected.
Signs of systemic vasculitis can include:
- weight loss
Causes of Vasculitis in Dogs
Sometimes there is no known cause of vasculitis in dogs. Other times, there may be an underlying condition. This condition can be caused by infection or inflammation due to:
- parasites (heartworm)
- immune response
- drug interactions
- abnormal tissue growth
- kidney disease
- joint disease like rheumatoid arthritis
Diagnosis of Vasculitis in Dogs
Reaching a diagnosis can be tricky because of the wide range of symptoms. Veterinarians will require a complete and detailed history. A physical examination is required as well.
The vet may request a complete blood count, chemistry and blood cultures.
Treatment of Vasculitis in Dogs
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. If an underlying cause cannot be detected, treatment will rely on controlling inflammation. This helps reduce damage to the blood vessel walls.
In severe cases, a strong immunosuppressive medication (corticosteroids and cyclosporine) will be administered.
Topical medications can help control inflammation of the skin. It’s not unusual for dogs to require long-term or life-long treatment to control symptoms.
Degenerative Valve Disease
This is the most common heart disease in dogs. Approximately 75% of dogs with heart problems have this condition. Chronic degenerative valve disease is also known as:
- valvular regurgitation
- valvular insufficiency
- chronic valve disease
- myxomatous degeneration of the valve
When a dog has degenerative valve disease, the heart valves thicken. They become abnormally thick and take on a lump appearance.
According to VCA Hospitals:
Chronic degenerative valve disease represents approximately 75% of all heart disease in dogs.
Approximately 60% of affected dogs have degeneration of the mitral valve, 30% have degeneration of both the tricuspid and mitral valves, and the remaining 10% have degeneration in the tricuspid valve only.
The risk of developing CVD increases as dogs get older and is rare before the age of 4 years.
In addition, small breed dogs (dogs weighing less than 40 lb or (18.2 kg)) are more likely to get CVD than larger dogs. Certain breeds also have a higher risk of developing CVD.https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/chronic-degenerative-valve-disease-in-dogs-in-depth
Once the valves thicken, the increase in atrial blood volume increases. Unfortunately, atrial pressure also increases. This can result in elevated blood pressure in the capillaries of the lungs. Sometimes it can increase fluid in the lungs.
Degenerative valve disease is related to aging. Certain breeds including the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Dachshunds are thought to be at risk.
Diagnosis of Degenerative Valve Disease in Dogs
Possible tests may include the following:
- chest x-rays
- blood work
- urine test
- blood pressure
- blood test known as NT-proBNP to measure the degree of stretch to the heart muscle
- Serum Cardiac Troponin-1 which is another biomarker of heart disease
- ECG to assess heart rhythem
Treatment of DVD in Dogs
Treatment depends on the severity of the disease. If the heart is enlarged and there is high blood pressure, medications may be prescribed.
Artery Inflammation in Dogs
Artery inflammation may cause the failure of other organ systems. It can affect the immune system, cause weight loss, and may interfere with the heart rate. This can lead to congestive heart failure.
Artery inflammation may also cause a harmful inflammatory response such as rheumatoid arthritis or affect the aortic valve, or progress to mitral regurgitation.
Home Care of the Heart Failure Patient
Washington State University offers a guide on how to manage home care with a dog who has been diagnosed with heart failure.
You can read it here: Home Care of the Heart Failure Patient
Life Expectancy of a Dog with Artery Inflammation
It’s difficult to offer a specific time-frame as to how long a dog will live with heart disease. Lifespan will reflect the severity of the disease, whether the dog has underlying conditions, and the commitment and follow-up of prescribed treatments over the dog’s lifetime.
Naturally, advanced heart failure offers a poorer outcome than mild heart disease.
A clinical study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (May-June 2018) by Amelie Beaumier, John E. Rush, Vicky K. Yang, and Lisa M. Freeman, attempted to define survival time in dogs with advanced heart failure.
For the purpose of the study, advanced heart failure was defined as “recurrence of congestive heart failure signs despite receiving the initially prescribed dose” of medication.
54 dogs with advanced heart failure due to degenerative mitral valve disease were studied. They were all given doses of pimobendan, ACEI, and furosemide >4 mg/kg/day.
During the study, 70% of the dogs had additional medication adjustments.
The dogs with increased furosemide of >6.70 mg/kg/day had significantly longer survival times at 402 days versus 129 days.
The conclusion was that dogs with advanced heart failure can have relatively longer survival times when given higher furosemide doses and non-hospitalization.
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Summary – What It All Means For Your Dog
Sadly, it’s nearly impossible to offer a specific timeframe for your dog’s life expectancy. Outcomes will depend on the severity of your dog’s heart disease and whether he/she has any underlying disease.
Things like the age of your dog, access to the best treatment options, and how well your dog responds to treatment all play a role.
The best thing you can do is have a good heart-to-heart with the veterinarian. Take notes, listen carefully, and don’t be afraid to call the clinic when you have questions.
The veterinarian will offer the best treatment options. After trying them, he/she may want to make adjustments. You will likely make several visits to the clinic for follow-up appointments and tests to ensure treatment plans are working.
Thank you for reading this post. I want to wish you all the best with your pet’s treatment options. If you’re having difficulty and need support, look for groups of people going through the same thing. Facebook often offers a wide variety of groups to join.