Genetic Canine Heart Disease and Seizures

by Phyllis
(Ankeny, Iowa)

I must give some history before getting to my question. My Chihuahua Sparky recently died from canine congestive heart failure. I did not realize he had a heart problem until he started coughing when he walked more than a few feet.

I have since found out my Aunt's Chihuahua (related but different litter) died of the same disease. My mothers Chihuahua Buddy from the first litter has been diagnosed with Mitral Dysplasia and will begin treatment. He has not had an appetite for about six months and a feeding tube inserted.

Buddy has had seizure like episodes since about two years of age. My Chihuahua Shelbi is from the same litter as Buddy and has also had seizure like episodes since two years of age. I am concerned that she may have also inherited heart disease.

I am concerned that these seizure like episodes may have an underlying disease such as congenital heart disease.

Thank you,

Phyllis Bailey

Vet Comments on Canine Heart Disease

Hi Phyllis,

I am sorry to hear of all the heartache that you and your family have been through with your Chihuahua’s lately.

Some types of heart disease, including mitral valve dysplasia, and seizure disorders like epilepsy can have a genetic component to them, and I suspect this is what you have observed in all of these dogs that are related and have similar health concerns.

We usually don’t see seizures associated with mitral valve dysplasia unless a dog has developed severe congestive heart failure as a result. So, I doubt that Shelbi’s “seizure-like” episodes are related to heart disease, although if these are not true seizures but are actually episodes of collapse, a connection might be more likely.

If you have not done so already, you might want to consider having Shelbi’s heart evaluated with a cardiac ultrasound, and certainly describe these episodes to the veterinarian who performs the procedure. He or she would be in the best position to determine if there is a link between the two problems.

The combination of an ultrasound and chest x-rays would let you know where Shelbi falls on the gradient of heart disease and if treatment is warranted at this point.

Good luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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