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Heart Valve Infection (Infective Endocarditis) in Dogs

Infective Endocarditis in Dogs

Infective endocarditis, a condition where the inner lining of the heart becomes inflamed due to an infection, can affect dogs. This inflammation can extend to the heart valves and is typically a result of infections elsewhere in the body spreading to the heart. Dogs most commonly affected are of medium to large breeds, typically aged between four and six years old, with males being more susceptible than females. If not promptly treated, complications can arise, potentially leading to heart failure and death.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms and types of infective endocarditis in dogs can vary depending on factors such as the location and nature of the infection, complications, and the extent of heart involvement. The following symptoms may be observed in affected dogs:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Bluish discoloration of the skin
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Reluctance to move
  • Body aches and pains
  • Symptoms related to heart issues
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Intermittent lameness
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances

Causes

  • Bacterial infections
  • Previous major surgeries

Diagnosis

For diagnosis, it’s important to provide your veterinarian with a thorough background history of your dog’s health, including symptom onset, any past illnesses or injuries, surgeries, and the duration and frequency of symptoms. Your vet will conduct a comprehensive physical examination and basic laboratory tests such as complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, and urinalysis to gather information on the underlying infection and potential organ involvement.

Blood cultures will be performed to identify the causative agent of the infection and guide antibiotic treatment. Radiographic studies like X-rays will assess heart involvement, while echocardiography will offer detailed insight into heart function using ultrasound imaging. Additionally, an electrocardiogram (ECG) will measure the heart’s electrical activity, recording its movement and impulses.

Treatment

Treating infective endocarditis in dogs is a serious matter, often requiring hospitalization for intensive care. Fluid therapy will be administered to restore and maintain proper body fluid levels, while antibiotic therapy will be initiated to combat the infection.

Prognosis for patients with valve involvement is typically guarded, depending on the stage of the infection and the heart’s functionality. Treatment usually spans 12 weeks, during which your veterinarian will regularly monitor the infection’s progress through multiple blood samples. Once antibiotic therapy concludes, further blood samples will confirm the resolution of the infection.

Living and Management

Managing infective endocarditis in your dog involves ongoing care and monitoring. If the heart issue was mild and treated promptly and aggressively, the prognosis for recovery is usually favorable. Regular follow-up appointments with your veterinarian, typically on a weekly basis, will help track progress and adjust treatment as needed. Your vet may recommend a specialized diet to support cardiovascular and organ health. Treatment focuses on addressing the underlying infection and managing resulting heart problems.

For cases where diagnosis was delayed and the disease has progressed, the overall prognosis may be poor due to potential complications. In such instances, your vet will discuss alternative plans with you.

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