Pulmonary Hypertension in Dogs: Understanding, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a serious condition affecting dogs. Characterized by high blood pressure within the arteries leading to the lungs, it’s the kind of complex problem that makes teams like Coast to Coast Cardiology so necessary.

While the causes of pulmonary hypertension can vary, early detection and treatment are always critical to managing the disease and improving your dog’s quality of life. Below, we’ll provide a breakdown of the basics so you know what to watch for.

Triggers of Pulmonary Hypertension

PH can stem from a variety of sources, including:

  • Congenital Heart Defects
  • Heartworm Disease
  • Chronic Valve Disease
  • Blood Clots (Pulmonary Thromboembolism)

Fortunately, you don’t have to determine the cause on your own.

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Hypertension

Veterinary cardiologists use various tools to diagnose PH, including:

  • Physical Exams: A heart murmur, a sign of turbulent blood flow, might be detected.
  • Echocardiograms (Ultrasound): This non-invasive imaging technique assesses heart size, function, and blood flow, helping estimate pulmonary pressures. Think of it as a detailed look at the heart’s structure and function.
  • Right Heart Catheterization: This invasive procedure directly measures pressure in the pulmonary arteries but might require sedation in compromised patients.
  • Chest X-rays and Electrocardiogram (ECG): These tests provide additional information about the lungs and heart rhythm, respectively.

Treatment Options

The treatment approach that our team will take relies substantially on the outcome of diagnostics.

  • If a specific cause is identified, treating it becomes the first priority. For example, deworming for heartworm disease or addressing a heart valve defect might be the first steps in some cases.
  • In idiopathic cases (ones with no apparent cause), medications like sildenafil (initially developed for PH but later known by its brand name Viagra) help relax the pulmonary arteries, easing blood flow.
  • Diuretics like furosemide (Lasix) might be used to remove excess fluid and improve heart function.
  • Depending on your dog’s individual needs, additional medications might be prescribed to manage arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) or prevent blood clots.

Prognosis and Monitoring

The prognosis for PH varies depending on the cause and the severity of the condition. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for a better outcome.

You can help out by watching for any of the clinical warning signs below, including:

  • Exercise intolerance (easily tires during activity)
  • Weakness
  • Pale gums and/or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting episodes
  • Coughing

Monitoring Your Dog’s Breathing

Monitoring your dog’s resting respiratory rate can also provide clues; ultimately, any increase in respiratory rate or effort can indicate a worsening condition.

You Can Protect Your Pup!

Pulmonary hypertension is a complex disease, but with early detection, proper diagnosis, and management, many dogs can live happy and fulfilling lives.

At Coast to Coast Cardiology, we provide exceptional service for all kinds of cardiac and comorbid conditions. We have ten different locations, but we deliver on one goal no matter where we’re working: We treat the patient, not the signs, providing comprehensive, cost-effective, and compassionate care. To make an appointment, contact us online or call 844-582-3827 today.