A number of inherited heart defects are possible in dogs. Amongst the most common ones are 1. an abnormal narrowing (stricture) of the large vessels exiting the heart, 2. an incomplete closure of the separating walls or 3. the presence of an abnormal shunt between pulmonary and body circuit.
Many congenital heart defects do not affect the animal and are diagnosed as coincidental findings during routine examination. Young dogs with apparent heart defects are usually obviously smaller and weaker than their littermates and show slower growth. If symptoms become apparent later in life, they are similar to those of valvular disease and include lethargy, an intolerance to exercise, and sudden loss of balance that leads to sudden collapses. In some breeds, sudden heart death is sometimes diagnosed to be the result of congenital heart defects, which are rarely diagnosed beforehand.
Congenital heart defects are by defininition inherited and present at birth. Some breeds are more commonly affected, such as Great Danes or English Bulldogs.
If no symptoms or discomfort are present, congenital heart disease may be left without medical treatment. Animals with category 1 congenital heart disease often fall into this group. While conditions of animals with group 3 can be treated surgically. The heart defects of group 2 have a poor prognosis. See the description for more details on congenital heart disease.
If no symptoms are present, the condition may be left without medical treatment. Animals with category 1 congenital heart disease often fall into this group. Conditions of group 3 can be treated surgically. Heart defects of group 2 have a poor prognosis.