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Pericardial Disease in Dogs

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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There are a variety of causes of pericardial disease.

  • Peritoneopericardial diaphragmatic hernia is a congenital disorder with no known cause. It is present from birth.

  • Pericardial effusion often occurs secondary to pericarditis i.e. inflammation of the pericardium. Fluid that accumulates within the pericardium may be a result of either peritoneopericardial diaphragmatic hernia, right-sided heart failure, cysts, low blood protein, or infection. Bleeding into the pericardium may be caused by heart tumors, trauma, or blood clotting problems. In some cases, the cause of the pericardial effusion cannot be determined.

  • Pericardial constriction most often develops secondary to chronic inflammation, particularly from infection, but also occurs secondary to recurrent hemorrhage or as a consequence of diffuse cancer.

    Pericardial disease can occur in dogs of any age. Weimaraners are predisposed to peritoneopericardial diaphragmatic hernias. Golden retrievers are more likely to have bleeding in the pericardium from an unknown cause. Heart tumors, primarily hemangiosarcoma, are more common in German shepherds, golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers. Another type of heart tumor, called an aortic body tumor, is especially common in older short-nosed breeds such as pugs, bulldogs or Pekingese.

    The prognosis for pericardial disease depends on the cause. Dogs with bleeding into the pericardium from an unknown cause have a fair to good prognosis. Dogs with pericardial fluid accumulation caused by infection have a guarded prognosis. Dogs with pericardial fluid accumulations arising as a result of a heart tumor have a poor prognosis.

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