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Endocarditis in Dogs

By: Dr. Arnold Plotnick

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Endocarditis is a serious infection involving the valves of the heart. It is usually a bacterial infection, although on rare occasions fungal infections can occur.

This condition is uncommon in dogs, and very rare in cats, and the incidence of disease increases as dogs get older. Male dogs are at slightly greater risk than females, and any breed may be affected. Previous procedures that could introduce bacteria into the blood stream, such as dentistry or intravenous catheterization, or that suppress the immune system, such as administration of glucocorticoids, may predispose dogs to the development of bacterial endocarditis. Pre-existing heart disease also increases the risk of developing endocarditis.

Because it is so uncommon, it is often overlooked and misdiagnosed with dire consequences, as the disease is often fatal.

What to Watch For

  • Fever
  • Anorexia
  • Malaise
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

    Diagnosis

  • Thorough history and physical exam
  • Cardiac ultrasound
  • Electrocardiography (EKG)
  • Chest X-rays
  • Blood cultures

    Treatment

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-arrhythmics (drugs that control abnormal heart rhythms)
  • Drugs that treat congestive heart failure, such as diuretics, cardiac glycosides, vasodilators, and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors
  • Drugs that treat shock like glucocorticoids

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all antibiotics as prescribed. If congestive heart failure has developed, administer all cardiac medications and/or prescription diets as recommended by your veterinarian.

    Antibiotics are recommended if a dog with a previously diagnosed heart condition is going to undergo a procedure that might introduce bacteria into the bloodstream. This is a controversial preventative measure, however.

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