Veterinary Cardiology

Learn more about Veterinary Cardiology

Cardiac diseases we commonly see usually involve damage to the heart valves or enlargement/dilation of the heart due to weakening of the muscle.  These diseases are progressive and are due to degeneration of the heart.  There is often a genetic component as certain breeds at more at risk. 

Heart Disease in Dogs

Valvular disease tends to affect small dogs, particularly small terriers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. It is more often associated with middle aged to older dogs.


The most common signs are reduced activity levels, tiring on walks, increased breathing rate, collapsing during exercise, and sometimes a soft cough at rest. If you notice any of these signs we recommend you come and see us for a check up. 

How We Can Help

Your vet will find a murmur on listening to the heart.  If it is loud enough, an ultrasound scan is advisable to check for any enlargement of the heart.  Medication is warranted if significant heart enlargement is detected.

Dilated heart disease tends to affect larger dogs, especially Dobermanns, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Boxers and Spaniels.  This is a middle aged disease and can present as slowing on walks, increased breathing rate, lethargy, distended abdomen, collapse and sudden death. In large breed dogs a murmur may be detected but unlike valvular disease, even a very quiet murmur is significant and requires further investigation by way of either a blood test to check for heart muscle stretch (looking for a biomarker called ProBNP) or a heart scan. 

Cocker and Springer Spaniels can get both types of heart disease so any murmur is advised to be investigated further.

Heart Disease in Cats

Cats can also get heart disease but their symptoms can be harder to spot as exercise tolerance is difficult to assess.  Lethargy, increased breathing rate or difficulty breathing are the common signs but hind limb paralysis and pain due to clots forming in the major arteries can occur.  A heart murmur in cats is always worth investigating but unfortunately cats don't read medicine books... not all cats with heart disease have a murmur, and not all cats with murmurs have heart disease!  A routine blood test, including checking for thyroid disease is advised prior to scanning to rule out underlying disease that may be causing the clinical signs.

Get In Touch

  • If you have any questions feel free to call the surgery on 01 885 3253 to speak to James about your dog or cat's heart disease.