Diagnosis and Detection

How is a heart problem diagnosed?

It is important for you and your dog to make regular visits to the veterinarian. Early diagnosis and treatment will ensure your dog leads a happier, healthier, and longer life. Your veterinarian will follow a series of key steps and use some of the latest diagnostic tools to distinguish heart disease from respiratory problems.

1.   Clinical History - The veterinarian will need to know the age, breed, and medical history of your dog. He/she will evaluate the onset and type of cough and may ask about:

  • Changes in attitude, behavior, and activity level
  • Changes in breathing
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Sleeping habits
  • Previous evidence of heart disease
  • Previous treatment history

2.   Physical Examination - a thorough physical examination will provide your veterinarian with clues as to whether your dog has any heart-related problems. He/she will evaluate:

  • Weight and body condition
  • Breathing rates
  • Heart rates
  • Pulse rates
  • Skin or tissue abnormalities
  • Abdominal shape

3.   Listening to your dog's heart and lungs - A stethoscope may allow your veterinarian to determine if a heart murmur is present. (Appreciate that not all murmurs are easily heard.) Also, the heart rate and rhythm can be assessed with a stethoscope to determine if there is an irregular heartbeat. He/she can listen to the lungs to detect abnormal sounds.

4.   X-rays - Technically known as radiographs, an x-ray can help the veterinarian evaluate the size and shape of the heart and assess the severity of your dog's heart disease.

5.    Additional tests:

  • Blood testing for a cardiac biomarker called NT-proBNP, as well as a chemistry and complete blood count (CBC) analysis to assess your dog's cardiovascular health
  • A blood pressure test
  • An ECG (electrocardiograph)
  • An echocardiogram

Click here for more information on diagnostic tests.

Heart Health Tips

If your veterinarian hears a murmur, ask about heart disease.

Tell Us Your Story

Submit your storyof a canine member of your family and his or her battle against heart disease.

Is Your Dog at Risk of CHF?

Learn more about the risk factors for your dog.