As a dog owner, chances are there have been times when you’ve witnessed your loyal best friend feeling less than optimal. Fortunately, most problems are acute and lead to a simple determination of the root cause and consequent solution. However, when it comes to a noticeably rapid heart rate, there could be a number of very different causes at play ranging from unconcerning to very serious.
Causes of Fast Heart Rate in Dogs
Supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, is the medical term for an abnormal heart rate. An abnormal heart rate in dogs can be the result of temporary and relative factors including size, physical exertion, and excitement levels. It is important to regularly monitor not only your dog, to understand what his or her homeostasis is, but also, situationally. For example, if you’ve just come home from a long day out of the house and you’re greeted by your puppy pal, chances are his heart rate will have dramatically increased due to excitement. If you’ve observed that your Pomeranian has a much faster heart rate than your Great Dane, this is also to be expected due to the stark difference in the respective sizes of your dogs. On the other hand, if you’ve noticed your dog is in a relaxed state, yet has in irregular heart rate, this may be due to a more serious cause.
Some of the most serious and common causes of fast heart rate or SVT in dogs include:
- Medication/Drug overdose
- Cardiomyopathy/Heart Disease
- Gastrointestinal Disease
- Splenic Disease
It is important to know the cause of a heightened heart rate in your dog so you can appropriately determine the next actionable course. The observance of symptoms can be exceedingly useful in determining when to bring your pup in to see a Veterinarian.
Symptoms of Fast Heart Rate in Dogs
Dogs who have an unusually fast heart rate can be subject to a number of symptoms, with some more obvious than others. If the cause of increased heart rate is due to a cardiac disease, the symptoms generally include lethargy, weakness, exercise intolerance, and unconsciousness. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and pale mucous can be linked to congestive heart failure.
In general, some symptoms to look for when accompanied by a fast heart rate are:
- Shortness of breath
- Inability to exercise
- Fluid in the Lungs/Chest
On occasion there may not be clinical signs present, in which case, you will need to be very observant and tune into your dog and his emotions and homeostasis. It is important to pay close attention to your dog’s eating habits, moods, activity levels, and desires. If something seems to be unusual, do not hesitate to take your dog in for an expert opinion and diagnosis.
Once you’ve taken your dog into a veterinarian, they will generally run through a comprehensive physical exam, taking into account the dog’s history, symptoms, and overall medical health. Through blood testing, the veterinarian will determine whether or not there is an infection of blood or disorder of the organs. The veterinarian may also run some additional tests and x-rays to look for evidence of cardiac disease or tumors. After the cause is determined, the vet can administer treatment by way of medication. The two most commonly prescribed medications, lidocaine and sotalol, can help regulate and control arrhythmia. In more severe cases, a defibrillator may be needed to bring the heart rate back to a safe level. After the treatment has been administered and your dog is back in the comfort of your own home, you will need to continue to regularly monitor your dog’s heart rate, as well as, attend follow-up exams with the veterinarian.
It’s important to remember that in terms of dogs, all heart rates are not created equal. Depending on size, breed, activity levels, and excitement, each dog can have differentiating heart rates that are all respectively appropriate. However, when it comes to a fast heart rate paired with unusual symptoms, a closer look and determination is always a good practice. When in doubt, you should take our dog in to a veterinarian to help determine causes and solutions. Your puppy pal will thank you in the long run!