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Heart Attack in Dogs

What Is a Heart Attack in Dogs?

A heart attack occurs when there’s an interruption in blood flow to the coronary arteries, which are responsible for supplying blood to the heart muscle itself. When blood flow is obstructed, the heart muscle, or myocardium, becomes damaged rapidly, impeding its ability to effectively pump blood throughout the body and to vital organs.

While heart attacks are exceedingly uncommon in dogs, if your pet displays any symptoms such as pain, weakness, or difficulty breathing, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention without delay.

What Is the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Heart Failure in a Dog?

A heart attack occurs when there’s an interruption in blood flow to the heart muscle, typically due to a clot. This halts the heart’s ability to contract effectively, leading to inadequate circulation throughout the pet’s body. While heart attacks can occur in dogs, they are extremely rare.

In contrast, heart failure is a more prevalent condition in dogs. The heart serves as a pump responsible for circulating blood to all parts of the body. Various factors, such as deterioration of heart valves over time, heartworm infestation, or congenital heart defects, can weaken this pumping action, resulting in heart failure.

In cases of heart failure, a dog may experience fluid accumulation in either the lungs or abdomen, depending on which side of the heart is most affected. Recognizing symptoms like coughing, increased breathing rate or effort, or abdominal swelling is crucial, as they indicate a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention.

Symptoms and Types

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to move legs
  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Extreme weakness or lethargy


In dogs, a heart attack can be triggered by any condition that heightens the risk of excessive blood clotting (hypercoagulability). Factors contributing to hypercoagulability may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Severe pancreatitis
  • Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA)
  • Sepsis
  • Parvovirus
  • Heartworm disease
  • Cancer


When considering the possibility of a heart attack in dogs, veterinarians may employ various diagnostic procedures including chest radiographs (X-rays), blood pressure assessments, electrocardiograms (ECGs) to evaluate heart rhythm, and echocardiograms (ultrasound of the heart). Additionally, blood tests may be conducted to assess for infections, organ function, or clotting abnormalities.

Given the rarity of heart attacks in dogs, initial diagnostic tests would typically focus on identifying more common and treatable causes.


The treatment approach for a heart attack in dogs hinges on addressing the root cause that led to the deprivation of blood flow to the heart muscle. Unfortunately, the prognosis for a genuine heart attack in dogs is typically very grim, with the majority not surviving.

Living and Management

The likelihood of a dog recovering from a heart attack is minimal. Recovery prospects are influenced by the extent to which the heart muscle can sustain function and the seriousness of the underlying condition leading to clot formation. In cases where a heart attack is suspected, immediate veterinary attention is crucial.

Heart Attack in Dogs FAQs

Are certain breeds more susceptible to heart attacks?

No specific breed predisposition has been identified.

What is the typical survival period for a dog following a heart attack?

For dogs experiencing a genuine heart attack, survival time is typically very brief. However, numerous conditions may mimic similar symptoms, underscoring the importance of promptly seeking veterinary attention if you suspect your pet is encountering a heart-related issue.

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