How To Recognize and Treat Atrial Fibrillation in Dogs

Atrial fibrillation in dogs, in simplest terms, refers to a condition of the heart, which is characterized by an irregular and/or rapid heart rate. This is caused by an abnormality in the electrical activity in the right and left atria of the heart. This condition in turn results to reduced heart function. In many cases, atrial fibrillation is temporary, but others may be severe and life-threatening when left undiagnosed.

  • Know the symptoms of atrial fibrillation. Because this condition is internal, you will have to keep a watchful eye on your dog to begin to suspect that he may need to have professional attention. Some of the symptoms you may look out for include the following: lethargy and weakness, decreased capacity for exercise or any activity (specially if he used to be very energetic), difficulty in breathing, lack of appetite and increased heart rate.
  • Check your dog’s heart rate. Do know that the normal heart rate for dogs depends on his size: small dogs and puppies have normal heart rates of 120 to 160 beats per minute (bpm), while larger dogs have heart rates of 60 to 120 bpm. The rule of thumb is that the larger the dog, the slower his heart rate. The best area of your dog’s body to check his heart rate is at the left side of his chest, at the spot where his elbow can touch if it is raised. Place your hand over this spot; if you have a stethoscope that will make it much easier for you. Count the number of beats his heart makes for 15 seconds, then multiply that number by 4.
  • Check your dog’s breathing. Another way to check your dog’s breathing rate. It’s best to do this while your dog is sleeping. The normal respiratory rate for dogs is 10 to 30 breaths per minute, although dogs that are panting during vigorous activity can breathe up to 200 pants per minute (that’s why you should check for your dog’s breathing when he is asleep). You should also check for the way that your dog is breathing: if he is gasping, taking shallow breaths or is using his abdominal muscles (instead of his chest muscles) to breathe, then you may need to take him to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Take your dog to the vet. Remember, atrial fibrillation is a potentially severe and life-threatening condition and there is no way that you can treat your dog for this through home remedies. Request for your dog to be checked for atrial fibrillation, through an EKG (canine electrocardiogram) and a chest radiograph. Your dog may also be given medication such as furosemide, to prevent the possibility of a heart failure.
  • Opt for a lifestyle change for your dog. It’s very important that you work very closely with your vet so that you could monitor your dog’s progress and you could plan out together the best diet, exercise, and lifestyle to facilitate your dog’s recovery. You should also closely monitor and observe changes in your dog – his energy, his heart rate, his breathing rate, etc, and report significant changes to the vet.

Remember, atrial fibrillation is something that could be addressed, if it is diagnosed early and treated properly. Good luck, and hope this helped!


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