Matters of the Heart: Congenital Heart Disease
January 04, 2013
Humans and animals often have similar health problems. One
example of this is Congenital Heart Disease. Congenital Heart
Disease refers to a problem the animal is born with. There
are multiple types of Congenital Heart Disease: valve malformations
or dysplasia, valve narrowing or stenosis, abnormal openings
between the heart chambers or septal defects, and patent ductus
Patent ductus arteriosus(PDA) is the most common among dogs, said
Dr. Ashley Saunders, assistant professor at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
"There are a number of diseases that your dog can be born with,
patent ductus arteriosus is the most common in dogs," she
PDA is caused when the ductus arteriosus, an arterial connection
between the aorta and pulmonary artery, doesn't close properly
after birth, Saunders said. This results in blood being
pumped back through the artery instead of through the rest of the
Saunders added that different breeds such as German shepherds,
miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, Pomeranians, collies, and
Shetland sheepdogs are more susceptible to the disorder. Female
dogs are also predisposed to the disorder.
Most dogs with PDA have a heart murmur that the veterinarian will
hear upon routine checkup.
"Most veterinarians will hear a heart murmur when the dog is taken
in for a routine vaccination or first exam," Saunders said.
After hearing the heart murmur, an x-ray is done to evaluate the
heart size and possibly fluid build-up in the lungs. A
cardiologist would get an ultrasound or echocardiogram of the dog's
heart to examine the blood flow through the ductus
"Based on the symptoms and the murmur, we will do tests to
determine which congenital disease the dog has," Saunders said. "A
lot of times, we will have to do a heart ultrasound to make a
Generally, surgery is the treatment for dogs with PDA. The
Small Animal Hospital at the CVM is known for fixing PDA with
minimally invasive surgery, Saunders said. If the animal has
surgery, their prognosis is great with a greater than90 percent
If undiagnosed and untreated, PDA can lead to heart failure.
Since PDA leads to heart failure, 60 percent of dogs die when PDA
is untreated. Signs of heart failure are difficulty breathing,
coughing, and exercise intolerance.
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