What is Canine Cardiomyopathy?

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By and large, the Jack Russell Terrier is free from many of the congenital defects that affect other purebreds. But there are a few diseases to which Jacks are more prone than other dogs.

One of these problems is Cardiomyopathy. And it can be serious.

What is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is the name of a group of heart problems that result in the weakening of the heart muscle.

Sometimes these problems result from a thickened heart. They may also involve stiffening of the heart muscle, or dilation of the heart chambers.

Many kinds of cardiomyopathy are hereditary.

If cardiomyopathy goes unchecked, it will eventually lead to heart failure. However, if your dog receives a cardiomyopathy diagnosis, there are drugs that can extend his or her life and provide relief from some of the symptoms.


The symptoms of canine cardiomyopathy start out slowly. At first, the body compensates for the gradual weakening of the heart muscle. Until it can’t anymore. And then the problem may seem to come out of nowhere and become very serious very quickly.

Some common symptoms of cardiomyopathy include:

Exercise aversion and loss of stamina

If your usually-athletic Jack seems less peppy than usual, avoids exercise, and appears to be trying to conserve energy, this may be a symptom of heart trouble.

If you notice that your dog has significantly less stamina suddenly, this, too, can also be a sign of problems.


Many sources say that this is one of the first and most common symptoms.

Why do heart problems cause your dog to cough?

Well, as the heart gets weaker, it can’t pump blood as efficiently. Blood gathers in the vessels around the lungs, pushing fluid into the lungs. Your dog may gag or cough frequently as a result.

Weakness and breathlessness

These, too, are symptoms of canine cardiomyopathy.

Cold legs and feet

This comes down to poor circulation caused by a weakening heart.


As fluid collects in different parts of the body, you may notice your dog looking swollen, especially in the belly.

Drooling and discolored tongue

If your dog is drooling excessively, and especially if they have a blue-tinged tongue, this is a sign not just of heart problems, but of heart failure. Get to a vet immediately.


There is no cure for many kinds of canine cardiomyopathy.

However, your vet may prescribe medications that can relieve the symptoms of the disease and prolong your dog’s life.

These medications may include drugs that improve the heart’s functioning, dilate blood vessels so the heart can pump blood more easily, and drugs that control heart arrhythmias.

Also, if your pet needs special care, make sure to give them plenty of love and comfort.

When to Go to the Vet

Every pet should have regular checkups to make sure that they stay healthy, and to pick up on early warning signs for disease.

However, if your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important to speak to your vet. Some of these symptoms have many causes. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Featured Image CC0 by GDJ, via Pixabay

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