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Where is a Dog's Heart Located? Asked & Answered - PawSafe

Where is a Dog’s Heart Located? Asked & Answered

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

where is a dog's heart located

Studies show that 1 in 10 dogs has some kind of heart disease, but as much as 60% of senior dogs have cardiac problems that can quickly become life threatening . So, one of the most common questions that dog owners may need to ask is, “Where is a dog’s heart?” The answer to this question is crucial for pet owners to understand their dog’s anatomy and to recognize any potential health issues.

Heart health is a vital part of taking care of canine companions, since it is such a common problem and heart disease in dogs is known as the silent killer. We can do a lot to protect our dog’s health through extra canine vitamin supplements, specific nutrients, and  a dental care water additive. 

In this article, we will explore the anatomy of a dog’s heart and its function by referring to the BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Medicine and Veterinary Anatomy. We will also discuss some common heart-related health issues in dogs and how to recognize the symptoms. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of where a dog’s heart is located and how to maintain your pet’s heart health.

A dog’s heart is located in the thoracic cavity, between the lungs. It is protected by the rib cage and lies in the middle of the chest, slightly tilted to the left. In the video below, Dr. James Talbott, DVM, from Nashville, Tennessee explains where to find the heart on your dogs and what you need to know about the heart rate.

Anatomy of a Dog’s Heart

a picture of a dog's heart

The dog’s heart is located in the chest cavity, in the middle of the thorax. It is positioned behind the sternum, between the lungs. The heart is surrounded by a sac called the pericardium, which helps protect it from damage.

How big is a dog’s heart?

The size of a dog’s heart varies depending on the breed and size of the dog. Generally, larger breeds have larger hearts than smaller breeds. For example, a Great Dane’s heart can weigh up to 1 pound and be as big or bigger than a human heart, while a Chihuahua’s heart may only weigh a few ounces.

Structure

infographic showing the structure of a canine heart

The dog’s heart is made up of four chambers: the right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium, and the left ventricle. The right atrium receives deoxygenated blood from the body and pumps it into the right ventricle. The right ventricle then pumps the blood to the lungs, where it is oxygenated. The oxygenated blood returns to the heart through the left atrium, which pumps it into the left ventricle. The left ventricle is the strongest chamber and pumps the oxygenated blood out to the rest of the body.

The heart also has four valves that help regulate blood flow: the tricuspid valve, the pulmonary valve, the mitral valve, and the aortic valve. These valves open and close to ensure that blood flows in the correct direction.

In summary, the dog’s heart is located in the chest cavity and is surrounded by the pericardium. It varies in size depending on the breed and is made up of four chambers and four valves that work together to pump blood throughout the body.

How Do You Feel A Dog’s Heart?

vet examining a dog's heartbeat using a stethoscope

Feeling a dog’s heart can help you determine if it is beating normally or if there are any irregularities. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Find a quiet and relaxed environment where the dog is comfortable and calm.
  2. Place your hand on the dog’s chest, just behind the elbow.
  3. You should be able to feel the dog’s heartbeat. It will feel like a rhythmic pulsing sensation.
  4. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four to get the heart rate per minute.
  5. A normal heart rate for a larger breed dogs is 60 to 80 beats per minute, while for smaller dogs have an average heartbeat of around 120 to 140 beats per minute.

It is important to note that feeling a dog’s heart should not replace regular check-ups with a veterinarian. If you notice any irregularities, such as a very fast or slow heart rate, or if the dog seems to be in distress, seek veterinary attention immediately.

How Do You Listen To A Dog’s Heart?

Listening to a dog’s heart can be a useful way to determine if the dog is healthy or has an underlying health issue. It is a simple procedure that can be done at home or by a veterinarian. Here are the steps to listen to a dog’s heart and to tell if they have a normal heartbeat.

  1. Find a quiet place: It is important to find a quiet place where there is minimal noise. This will help you to hear the dog’s heart more clearly.
  2. Position the dog: Position the dog in a way that it is comfortable and relaxed. You can place the dog on its side or sit it on your lap.
  3. Use a stethoscope: A stethoscope is a medical instrument used to listen to sounds inside the body. Place the stethoscope on the dog’s chest, just behind the elbow.
  4. Listen for heart sounds: Listen for the normal heart sounds, which are lub-dub, lub-dub. The first sound is the lub and is caused by the closing of the heart valves. The second sound is the dub and is caused by the opening of the heart valves.
  5. Count the heart rate: Count the number of lub-dub sounds in 15 seconds and multiply by four to get the heart rate per minute. A normal heart rate for a dog is between 60 and 140 beats per minute, depending on the size and breed of the dog.

In conclusion, listening to a dog’s heart is a simple procedure that can be done at home or by a veterinarian. It is important to find a quiet place, position the dog comfortably, use a stethoscope, listen for heart sounds, and count the heart rate. If you notice any irregularities in the heart rate or sounds, it is important to consult a veterinarian.

How Can You Perform CPR on a Dog?

Performing CPR on a dog can be a life-saving technique in emergency situations. CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which involves manually compressing the chest and providing artificial respiration to help the dog breathe. Here are the steps to perform CPR on a dog:

  1. Check for responsiveness: Before starting CPR, check if the dog is responsive by gently tapping or calling out its name. If the dog is not responding, proceed to the next step.
  2. Position the dog: Lay the dog on its side on a flat surface. Ensure that the dog’s head and neck are in a neutral position, and its tongue is not blocking the airway.
  3. Check for breathing: Check if the dog is breathing by placing your hand over its nose and mouth. If there is no breathing, proceed to the next step.
  4. Start chest compressions: Place one hand on top of the other and interlock your fingers. Position your hands over the dog’s chest, just behind the front legs. Apply firm pressure and compress the chest about one-third to one-half of its depth. Repeat this at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.
  5. Provide artificial respiration: After every 30 chest compressions, provide two breaths of artificial respiration. To do this, close the dog’s mouth and gently blow air into its nose. Watch for the chest to rise and fall.
  6. Continue CPR: Continue performing chest compressions and artificial respiration until the dog starts breathing on its own or until you reach a veterinary clinic.

It is essential to note that CPR should only be performed by someone who is trained in the technique. It is also crucial to get veterinary care as soon as possible after performing CPR on a dog.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Heart Pain?

It can be difficult to tell if your dog is experiencing heart pain or discomfort, as they cannot communicate their symptoms to us directly. However, there are a few signs and symptoms that you can look out for that may indicate that your dog is experiencing heart pain.

Signs of Heart Pain in Dogs

signs of heart pain in dogs
  • Coughing: A persistent cough that does not go away can be a sign of heart pain in dogs. This cough may be accompanied by a gagging or retching sound.
  • Difficulty Breathing: If your dog is having trouble breathing or seems to be breathing more heavily than usual, this may be a sign of heart pain.
  • Restlessness: Dogs with heart pain may be restless and unable to get comfortable. They may pace or seem unable to settle down.
  • Lethargy: Dogs with heart pain may seem tired or lethargic. They may not want to play or go on walks like they used to.
  • Loss of Appetite: A loss of appetite can be a sign of many different health issues, including heart pain. If your dog is not eating or drinking as much as usual, it may be time to see a veterinarian.

What to Do If You Suspect Heart Pain in Your Dog

If you suspect that your dog is experiencing heart pain, it is important to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can perform a physical exam and run tests to determine if your dog is experiencing heart pain, and can recommend a course of treatment if necessary.

It is important to remember that heart pain in dogs can be serious and even life-threatening, so it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible if you suspect that your dog is experiencing heart pain.

Heart Functions in Dogs

X-ray showing the function of a dog's heart

The heart is an essential organ in all living beings, and dogs are no exception. The primary function of the heart is to pump blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the cells and removing waste products.

In dogs, the heart is responsible for regulating blood pressure and maintaining the proper circulation of blood. It is also responsible for transporting hormones and other signaling molecules throughout the body.

The heart is composed of four chambers: the right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium, and the left ventricle. The atria are the upper chambers of the heart, while the ventricles are the lower chambers. The right side of the heart is responsible for pumping oxygen-poor blood to the lungs, while the left side of the heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.

When the heart contracts, it creates pressure that forces blood out of the heart and into the arteries. This pressure is known as blood pressure. Blood pressure is essential for maintaining proper circulation and delivering oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

In summary, the heart plays a vital role in the overall health and well-being of dogs. Its primary function is to pump blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the cells and removing waste products. Understanding the functions of the heart is crucial for maintaining a healthy and happy dog.

Common Heart Conditions in Dogs

There are many different types of heart conditions in dogs. It’s essential to catch these diseases early, since early treatment can help dogs live much longer lives. If heart diseases aren’t caught early, they can quickly develop into congenital heart failure. The most common heart issues to look out for include:

Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease is a condition that is present at birth. It is caused by structural defects in the heart’s chambers, valves, or blood vessels. Some common types of congenital heart disease in dogs include:

  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA): a condition in which a blood vessel that connects the aorta and the pulmonary artery remains open after birth.
  • Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD): a hole in the wall that separates the heart’s two lower chambers.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot: a combination of four heart defects that affect the flow of blood through the heart.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm that is transmitted to dogs through mosquito bites. The worms live in the dog’s heart and lungs, causing damage to the heart and other organs. Some common symptoms of heartworm disease include coughing, fatigue, and weight loss. Treatment for heartworm disease can be expensive and risky, so prevention is key.

Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular heart disease is a condition in which the heart’s valves do not function properly. This can cause the blood to flow in the wrong direction or become backed up in the heart. Some common types of valvular heart disease in dogs include:

  • Mitral Valve Disease: a condition in which the valve between the heart’s left atrium and left ventricle does not close properly.
  • Tricuspid Valve Disease: a condition in which the valve between the heart’s right atrium and right ventricle does not close properly.

It is important for dog owners to be aware of these common heart conditions and to seek veterinary care if their dog shows any signs of heart disease. Regular check-ups and preventative measures, such as heartworm prevention medication, can help keep a dog’s heart healthy.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Dogs:

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a heart condition in which the heart muscle becomes weakened and thin, causing the heart chambers to dilate. As a result, the heart struggles to pump blood efficiently. Over time, it can lead to heart failure.

Relation to Carnitine and Taurine Deficiency:

Some dogs with DCM have been found to have deficiencies in specific amino acids, namely carnitine or taurine. These amino acids play essential roles in heart muscle function.

Certain breeds are more genetically predisposed to deficiencies in these nutrients:

  1. Carnitine Deficiency: Boxers and Doberman Pinschers are among the breeds more prone to a carnitine deficiency.
  2. Taurine Deficiency: American Cocker Spaniels, Cockapoos,  Goldendoodles, and Golden Retrievers are some of the breeds more likely to develop DCM due to a taurine deficiency.

For breeds that are more susceptible to these deficiencies, it may be beneficial to provide additional carnitine or taurine through diet or supplements, although this should always be discussed with and overseen by a veterinarian.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Heart Conditions

Diagnostic Tests

When a dog is suspected of having a heart condition, a veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and may recommend additional diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): A test that measures the electrical activity of the heart and can detect abnormal rhythms.
  • Echocardiogram: A non-invasive test that uses ultrasound to visualize the heart and assess its function.
  • Chest X-ray: A radiograph that can show the size and shape of the heart and detect fluid buildup in the lungs.
  • Blood tests: These can reveal any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the heart condition.

Treatment Options

The treatment of heart conditions in dogs depends on the specific condition and its severity. Some common treatment options include:

  • Medications: These may include diuretics to reduce fluid buildup, ACE inhibitors to dilate blood vessels and reduce blood pressure, and anti-arrhythmic drugs to control abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct certain heart conditions, such as a congenital defect or a blocked artery.
  • Lifestyle changes: A veterinarian may recommend dietary changes, exercise restrictions, and weight management to help manage a dog’s heart condition.

It is important to note that not all heart conditions can be cured, but with proper treatment and management, many dogs with heart conditions can still lead happy and healthy lives.

Preventive Measures for Heart Health In Dogs

maintaining healthy dog heart

Maintaining a healthy heart is crucial for dogs to live a long and active life. Here are some preventive measures that pet owners can take to ensure their furry friends have a healthy heart:

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is essential for a dog’s overall health, including their heart. Exercise helps to strengthen the heart muscle, improves blood flow, and reduces the risk of heart diseases. Pet owners should aim to provide their dogs with at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. This could include walking, running, playing fetch, or swimming.

Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is essential for maintaining a healthy heart. Pet owners should ensure that their dogs are getting all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in their diet. A diet that is high in fat, salt, and cholesterol can increase the risk of heart diseases. Pet owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine the best diet for their dog’s specific needs.

Regular Check-Ups

Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are crucial for the early detection and prevention of heart diseases. During routine check-ups, veterinarians can assess a dog’s heart health and provide recommendations for preventive measures. Pet owners should schedule regular check-ups for their dogs at least once a year, or more frequently for older dogs or those with pre-existing conditions.

Weight Management

Obesity is a significant risk factor for heart diseases in dogs. Pet owners should ensure that their dogs maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Overfeeding and lack of exercise can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of heart diseases.

Stress Management

Stress can have a negative impact on a dog’s heart health. Pet owners should provide their dogs with a stress-free environment and avoid situations that may cause anxiety or stress. Exercise, playtime, and socialization can help reduce stress levels in dogs.

By following these preventive measures, pet owners can help ensure their dogs have a healthy heart and live a long and active life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the location of a dog’s heart?

A dog’s heart is located in the chest cavity, between the lungs. It is positioned slightly to the left side of the body.

What are the symptoms of heart pain in dogs?

The symptoms of heart pain in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some common signs include difficulty breathing, coughing, fatigue, and loss of appetite. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to take your dog to the veterinarian for an evaluation.

Can a dog’s heart be on the right side of its body?

It is extremely rare for a dog’s heart to be located on the right side of the body. However, certain congenital heart defects can cause the heart to be positioned abnormally. However, you may be able to feel your dog’s heartbeat on the right side of the body, but this does not mean the heart is placed more to the right than the left.

What is a dog heart murmur?

A dog heart murmur is an abnormal sound that is heard when listening to the heart with a stethoscope. It is caused by turbulent blood flow within the heart and can be an indication of an underlying heart condition.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a dog’s heart is located in the chest cavity, between the lungs, and slightly to the left of the center of the chest. It is protected by the rib cage and surrounded by a membrane called the pericardium. The heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the organs and tissues, and removing waste products.

It is important for dog owners to be aware of the location of their pet’s heart and to recognize the signs of heart disease or other heart-related conditions. Common symptoms of heart disease in dogs include coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and weakness. If you suspect that your dog may have a heart problem, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Overall, understanding the anatomy and function of a dog’s heart can help pet owners provide better care and support for their furry companions. By monitoring their dog’s health and seeking prompt veterinary attention when necessary, owners can help ensure that their pets live happy and healthy lives.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.