Heart disease not only affects humans, but also pets. Endocarditis, an infection or inflammation of the epithelial lining of the heart, can harm dogs. Without treatment, it can quickly become very dangerous and even prove fatal.
Causes of Endocarditis
The most common cause of endocarditis is an untreated bacterial infection that moves to the heart lining. This can occur when a dog has periodontal (dental) disease or other bacterial infections in areas like the bones or prostate.
These infections often go unnoticed for a long period. Over weeks or months, they can migrate to the heart where they settle into the heart lining. Some drugs, such as immunosuppressant and certain cancer treatments, can also increase the dog's risk of developing endocarditis.
Symptoms of Endocarditis
The symptoms of endocarditis are synonymous with the symptoms of heart failure. Dogs become lethargic, begin to cough, have difficulty breathing, and don't want to undertake any level of physical activity. Eventually, the dog will develop a heart murmur and high systolic blood pressure. When the infection is active and the condition is acute, a fever is not uncommon.
Treatment for Endocarditis
Endocarditis can be treated by means like antibiotics; however, these treatments unfortunately do not repair the damage the infection has caused to the heart. Therefore, treatment is generally focused on managing the heart damage and the clinical signs.
Endocarditis is an irreversible condition and as such, medical treatment centers on keeping affected dogs comfortable. The prognosis for dogs affected with endocarditis varies upon the level of severity and the stage of the infection. Additionally, because endocarditis often affects different valves of the heart, every case is different, so prognoses vary.
Once a dog contracts endocarditis, the damage is irreparable. As such, prevention is key. Since the condition often develops as the result of an untreated bacterial infection, there are dozens of preventative measures pet parents can take to keep their dogs safe.
One of the main steps is to adopt a routine oral care regiment that focuses on decreasing the risk of periodontal disease and oral bacterial infections. Good dental hygiene is by far the most effective way to prevent endocarditis; pets that have clean teeth are at a much lower risk for developing the condition. Additionally, pet parents should have their dog seen by a veterinarian regularly and note any changes in the dog's behavior that may indicate illness or infection.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.