What Your Veterinarian Will Do

How is a heart problem diagnosed?

It is important for you and your dog to make regular visits to the veterinarian. Early diagnosis and treatment will ensure your dog leads a happier, healthier, and longer life. Your veterinarian will follow a series of key steps and use some of the latest diagnostic tools to distinguish heart disease from respiratory problems.


1.  Clinical history - The veterinarian will need to know the age, breed, and medical history of your dog. He/she will evaluate the onset and type of cough and may ask about:

  • Changes in attitude, behaviour, and activity level
  • Changes in breathing
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Sleeping habits
  • Previous evidence of heart disease
  • Previous treatment history


2.  Physical examination - A thorough physical examination will provide your veterinarian with clues as to whether your dog has any heart-related problems. He/she will evaluate:

  • Weight and body condition
  • Breathing rates
  • Heart rates
  • Pulse rates
  • Skin or tissue abnormalities
  • Abdominal shape


3.  Listening to your dog’s heart and lungs - A stethoscope will allow your veterinarian to determine if a heart murmur is present. (Appreciate that not all murmurs are easily heard.) Also, the heart rate and rhythm can be assessed with a stethoscope to determine if there is an irregular heartbeat. He/she can listen to the lungs to detect abnormal sounds.

4.  X-rays - Technically known as radiographs, an x-ray can help the veterinarian evaluate the size and shape of the heart and assess the severity of your dog's heart disease.


5.  Additional tests:

  • Blood testing for a cardiac biomarker called NT-proBNP, as well as a chemistry and complete blood count (CBC) analysis to assess your dog’s cardiovascular health
  • A blood pressure test
  • An ECG (electrocardiograph)
  • An echocardiogram


Learn more about diagnostic tests.

Facts about heart disease brochure

Learn more about canine heart disease…and help protect your dog’s heart.