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Tear in the Heart in Dogs

Atrial Wall Tear

A dog’s heart comprises four chambers: two upper atria and two lower ventricles. Atrial wall tear refers to the rupture of the atrium’s wall. This condition is often a consequence of blunt trauma but can also stem from other causes. When an atrial wall tear occurs, the body’s protective mechanisms initiate healing, resulting in scar formation. However, if the tear is substantial, it can lead to severe bleeding and even sudden death. Regardless of breed, age, size, or gender, dogs may experience this type of trauma, which can cause serious illness or worse.

Symptoms and Types

  • Sudden weakness
  • Fainting
  • Sudden death
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Ascites (abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen)
  • Difficulty breathing


  • Blunt trauma to the thoracic cavity (chest)
  • Neoplasm in the heart
  • Other cardiac diseases may contribute to the condition


Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and potential incidents that may have caused the condition. Comprehensive blood tests, including a biochemical profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis, will be performed. However, these tests may not provide conclusive information for diagnosing this disease. To confirm an injury to the atrial wall, your veterinarian will utilize specific diagnostic procedures and tests. Techniques such as X-rays, ECGs, echocardiography, color Doppler studies, among others, will reveal structural and functional abnormalities related to the heart. Some of these techniques may indicate any defect in the atrial wall or scar formation, suggesting a previous injury.


The treatment approach will focus on addressing any complications arising from the atrial tear. If scar tissue has developed at the tear site, your dog may stabilize, but the potential for future complications remains a concern. Surgery to repair the defect may be recommended for certain patients, although the outcome is not always favorable. Strict confinement to a cage will be recommended for these patients to facilitate healing and prevent further complications.

Living and Management

Regrettably, the long-term survival prospects for these patients are very limited, even if the tear has closed due to scar formation. However, if your dog has shown substantial improvement, your veterinarian may only recommend regular visits for progress assessments. It’s important to adhere to your veterinarian’s instructions regarding cage rest, diet, and other management considerations.

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