Arrhythmia (Irregular Heart Beat) In Dogs: What should you know?

Arrhythmia (Irregular Heart Beat) In Dogs: What should you know?

Arrhythmia refers to a medical condition characterized by irregular heart pumping. Arrhythmia in a dog is not a rare occurrence.

The heart is constantly working to pump out the oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body while returning the blood with poor oxygen to the lungs.

The nervous system, of course, plays a pivotal role by signaling the heart to contract so that it can perform the crucial function that we have told you.

It’s when the signal changes the whole rhythmic pattern of the heart is disturbed. If you have a dog at home, make sure you are acquainting yourself with what arrhythmia is and how it is medically treated. Do read on to explore.

Causes of arrhythmia in dogs

Now, usually, your dog’s heart rate might increase due to stress or exercise. However, under normal circumstances, the heart regains its usual rhythm after some time. Now, for the large breed of dogs, the resting heart rate is 60 to 120 heartbeats a minute, and for the smaller dog breeds, 120 – 160 is the normal range.

Accordingly, if your dog’s heartbeat is slower or faster than this, your pet might have arrhythmia or is exposed to the risk of developing the same.

Now, there are not one but several types of arrhythmia in dogs. Large and small breed dogs might as well fall victim to specific types of arrhythmia.

Boxer dogs, for instance, are vulnerable to ARVC or arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. It can turn fatal if left untreated.

What more? They are prone to developing atrial fibrillation. This particular condition is common among Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Newfoundland dogs, and Irish Wolfhounds. Both conditions are treatable with the help of medication used to bring down the heartbeat rate.

Now coming to smaller breeds like Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel, Westie, and Miniature Schnauzers may develop sick sinus syndrome that engenders slow heart rate treated with a pacemaker or surgical implantation.

Now, arrhythmia in a dog is often attributed to structural changes in the heart. One such instance is when dogs have DCM or cardiomyopathy.

In this case, the walls of the heart become thin, dilating outwards. The heart, as such, is rendered incapable of pumping oxygen efficiently.

Therefore, when the body gets deprived of oxygen, the nervous system asks the heart to pump faster or harder. And, all this leads to the formation of atrial fibrillation and supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

Those looking for crucial information on arrhythmia in dogs should have a clear idea about heart block as well. A heart block can be caused by infection or inflammation. A heart block happens when the electrical signs moving through the heart stop.

A natural secondary pacemaker can prevent the stopping of the signal, but the heart rate is still slow. If your dog has a heart block, the dog is likely to be lethargic. Respiratory diseases, neurological diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, and certain medicines with anesthetic properties increase the risk of heart blocks in your pets as well.  

Arrhythmia: Signs and symptoms

As is the case with many other diseases, tracking the early signs facilitates faster diagnosis and increases the chances of recovery.

The earliest signs of heart blockages in dogs, of course, have to do with lethargy. If your dog is trying to avoid exercise or getting tired soon after playing, you should be alarmed.

Other signs include getting fatigued after a walk, restlessness, and inability to sleep. These are signs that need to be closely watched as well. What more? Dogs with heart disease cough a lot, especially during the nighttime. With time as the condition worsens, your dog ends up feeling breathless throughout the day.

Depending on the severity, if the heart disease worsens, it’s usually followed by filling up fluid in the abdomen. It causes weight loss owing to cachexia or muscle wasting.

A simple yet effective way of detecting arrhythmia in dogs is to check their heartbeat yourself. Place your hand over his heart or use a stethoscope.

Count the beats per 15-minute and then get your calculation for a minute accordingly. Repeat this regularly. If your doggie has registered more than 40 breaths per minute, then you should consider getting him checked by your vet. Watch out for abnormal patterns or two heart sounds as well.

Diagnosis of arrhythmia: What it entails 

Know what one of the best ways of identifying or diagnosing arrhythmia in dogs is? It’s an EKG or electrocardiogram. Since it is all about tracing the electrical activities of the heart, your vet can choose to place small metal electrodes.

It will help track variations in speed, height, pattern, and width of waveforms. Your fur baby might need some additional heart testing like an echocardiogram or x-rays.

If there is no sufficient repetition of arrhythmia, then a quick EKG reading or stethoscope will not be able to help you detect arrhythmia. In that case, a Holter monitor will be advised. Your dog will have to wear a small vest that will monitor his heart rate for 24 hours.

Dog show

What should you know about the treatment?

To ensure accurate treatment options, the primary cause behind arrhythmia is to be determined first. The treatment will vary with the cause itself. The medications differ for those with faster heartbeats and those with slower heartbeats.

In cases where medicines are not enough to speed up the heartbeat, your dog will have to undergo surgery where a pacemaker will be implanted in his heart. Usually, medications work in cases of 1 or 2nd-degree arrhythmia. A pacemaker is necessary for babies with 3rd-degree arrhythmia.

Those with acute respiratory disease require medical attention without delay. The condition can be caused by other organs as well.

For instance, dogs suffering from gastric dilatation-volvulus can develop ventricular premature contractions. Lidocaine, a popular arrhythmic medicine is needed to slow the heart rate together with regular treatment.

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