The dog is a running animal, certainly not the fastest we know, but certainly one of the most enduring. Its stamina has also helped humans a good deal in their development. As a shy companion, as a useful draft animal, as a loyal hunting companion, or as an attentive herding dog – for thousands of years, the dog accompanied people on their hikes through dry steppes, dense forests, inhospitable ice, and impassable mountains. Later he settled down and guarded the house and yard. Today the dog is much more: it is a friend, a lifesaver, a comforter, a therapist, and usually a full member of the family. What has remained is his primal instinct from prehistoric times – to run, run, run.
For this, the dog needs a strong and healthy heart. In healthy dogs, it beats about 60 times a minute, 3,600 times an hour, 86,400 times a day, or 31,536,000 times a year. Smaller dogs even clock twice as fast. In an average dog’s life, there are more than 300 to 600 million heartbeats. This makes the heart the most powerful pump ever invented. But even she can get out of step.
Heart diseases are not uncommon in dogs, every tenth dog examined is affected. The first signs can be exhaustion and shortness of breath even with the slightest effort. Chronic and usually insidious valvular disease is the main cause of heart failure in dogs. This disease is accompanied by pathological heart murmurs that the veterinarian can recognize, so regular examinations are important.
A dog that has fallen ill will never be able to perform at one hundred percent again. With medication and a therapy program, however, his life can be made noticeably easier. Thanks to modern veterinary medicine, even a dog with a heart condition can reach a normal age for dogs. Long forays like in primeval times are no longer possible, but a well-portioned daily “walk” should be on the daily program even for dogs with weak hearts.