Comparing Acquired Heart Disease in Dogs and Humans

Acquired heart diseases are those that develop over time rather than conditions that are presentComparing Acquired Heart Disease in Dogs and Humans from birth (congenital). Though limited similarities exist between heart disease in dogs and people, there are key differences that affect how and when to treat.

Dogs do NOT get heart attacks!

The most common cause of heart disease in people is coronary artery disease, which is a narrowing of the arteries that nourish the heart (coronary arteries). This condition causes a progressive or abrupt loss of blood supply to a region of the heart known as a “heart attack”. The narrowing results from a build-up of cholesterol plaque on the inside of the coronary arteries.

Interestingly, dogs (and cats) are virtually immune to this type of heart disease. Cholesterol metabolism is so notably different in dogs compared to people that coronary artery disease is rarely seen in canine patients.  Disturbances of cholesterol metabolism of sufficient severity to cause coronary artery disease in dogs are seen with a) severe hypothyroidism combined with an excess of cortisol (Cushing’s disease), or b) breeds that have inherited fat (lipid) metabolism.

Heart diseases that we see commonly in dogs include degeneration of the atrioventricular (AV) valves (called mitral and tricuspid valve disease), dilated cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension, and other miscellaneous diseases.

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Dr Roger Johnson

Roger K. Johnson, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include cardiology as well as using advanced diagnostics to help his patients. His particular favorites include echocardiography, abdominal ultrasonography, and endoscopy.

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